Ebola outbreak 2014: What can we learn from 14th century Venice plague to mitigate the disease

London: Researchers suggest methods used by the Venice city, to deal with a plague outbreak in the 14th century, could hold lessons in dealing with today’s Ebola outbreak that started in South Africa,

Venice was the hub of many trade routes into central Europe, and in 1347 became the epicenter of a plague epidemic. While Venetians initially attempted to mitigate what they believed to be the threat – God, vampires, etc.- by enacting traditional risk management like prayer and rituals, they eventually began to utilize what could now be called as “resilience management”.

State authorities focused on managing physical movement, social interactions, and data collection for the city as a system. This included a system of inspection, lazaretto (quarantine stations) on nearby islands, quarantine periods, and wearing protective clothing.

According to Dr Igor Linkov of the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, and a visiting professor of the Ca Foscari University in Italy, “Resilience management can be a guide to dealing with the current Ebola outbreak in Africa, and others like it, as well as other issues like population growth and the impacts of global climate change.”

In the case of Ebola, economic and cultural factors make risk management difficult.

While it would take time to transform deeply rooted traditions that contribute the spread of the Ebola virus, health experts and national leaders might be able to realise improvements by bolstering the ability of other parts of the system to respond to re-emergence of the disease.

The study has been published in Springer’s journal Environment Systems and Decisions.