There's A Reason Ebola Kills More Women In Africa And It’s Not Biological

August 21, 2014: Even worse is the fact that they cannot prevent the infectious disease.

In what has been called an "unprecedented epidemic" with a "worrisome" geographical spread, more and more cases of the deadly Ebola virus are being reported all over the world, especially Africa.

However, statistics reveal that women tend to be disproportionately affected by the deadly disease.

About 75 percent of people contracting Ebola are females, according to an announcement made by the government of Liberia, the West African country with the highest death toll. Liberia's Ebola cases are rising the fastest.

And the depressing reason women are more vulnerable is not even biological, as one would expect. It apparently has its roots in human nature that compels an individual to empathize – to love.

In addition, health experts believe that traditional social structures of most West African nations have also contributed to the unfortunate gender-biased susceptibility to the disease.

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Since women are often the primary care-givers to patients suffering from Ebola, it follows that they are more likely to contract it.

Julia Duncan-Cassell, Liberia’s minister for gender and development, told The Washington Post that health teams in Liberia found three-quarters of those who were infected or died from Ebola were female.

“Women are the caregivers – if a kid is sick, they say, ‘Go to your mom,'” she said. “The cross-border trade women go to Guinea and Sierra Leone for the weekly markets, [and] they are also the caregivers. Most of the time when there is a death in the family, it’s the woman who prepares the funeral, usually an aunt or older female relative.” 

Lauren Wolfe from Foreign Policy reiterated the same point while quoting Marpue Spear, the executive director of the Women's NGO Secretariat of Liberia.

"If a man is sick, the woman can easily bathe him but the man cannot do so," Spear stated. "Traditionally, women will take care of the men as compared to them taking care of the women."

This essentially means the women have no escape. They will not – and simply cannot – deny compassion to their infected family and they also have little chances of receiving any help at all.

Freetown Ebola

Maricel Seeger, a WHO spokeswoman in Monrovia, Liberia, said reaching women and educating them on the disease is crucial to tackling the virus’ spread, as they play a major role "as conduits of information in their communities."

"By reaching the women, they are reaching those who can best protect their families, and their own health," she said.

Although an outbreak started in winter, Ebola took its deadliest turn this month when 28 deaths were reported July 18-20.

Overall this year, the current outbreak has killed more than 1,200 and infected about 2,000 people, making it the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history.

The World Health Organization has described Ebola as “one of the most virulent viral diseases known to humankind.”

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