Triangulating Evidence to Infer Pathways that Influence Ebola Virus Disease-Related Stigma and Clinical Findings among Survivors: An Observational Cohort Study

J. Daniel Kelly, Moses Badio, Clara Drew, Barthalomew Wilson, Joseph B. Cooper, Meekie Glayweon, Kumblytee Johnson, J. Soka Moses, Dehkontee Gayedu-Dennis, Jacqueline M. Torres, Catherine E. Oldenburg, Michelle C. Davidson, Chiung Yu Huang, Wayne T. Steward, Micheal C. Sneller, George W. Rutherford, Cavan Reilly, Mosoka P. Fallah, Sheri D. Weiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Visible signs of disease can evoke stigma while stigma contributes to depression and mental illness, sometimes manifesting as somatic symptoms. We assessed these hypotheses among Ebola virus disease (EVD) survivors, some of whom experienced clinical sequelae. Ebola virus disease survivors in Liberia were enrolled in an observational cohort study starting in June 2015 with visits every 6 months. At baseline and 18 months later, a seven-item index of EVD-related stigma was administered. Clinical findings (self-reported symptoms and abnormal findings) were obtained at each visit. We applied the generalized estimating equation method to assess the bidirectional concurrent and lagged associations between clinical findings and stigma, adjusting for age, gender, educational level, referral to medical care, and HIV serostatus as confounders. When assessing the contribution of stigma to later clinical findings, we restricted clinical findings to five that were also considered somatic symptoms. Data were obtained from 859 EVD survivors. In concurrent longitudinal analyses, each additional clinical finding increased the adjusted odds of stigma by 18% (95% CI: 1.11, 1.25), particularly palpitations, muscle pain, joint pain, urinary frequency, and memory loss. In lagged associations, memory loss (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 4.6; 95% CI: 1.73, 12.36) and anorexia (AOR: 4.17; 95% CI: 1.82, 9.53) were associated with later stigma, but stigma was not significantly associated with later clinical findings. Stigma was associated with select symptoms, not abnormal objective findings. Lagged associations between symptoms and later stigma substantiate the possibility of a pathway related to visible symptoms identified by community members and leading to fear of contagion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1563-1568
Number of pages6
JournalThe American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene
Volume105
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 27 2021

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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