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January 2015

Public Health in the Age of Ebola in West Africa

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • 2O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown Law, Washington, DC
JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(1):7-8. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6235

The world is witnessing the unprecedented unfolding of the West African Ebola epidemic. The epidemic could have major ramifications for global public health in ways that no other modern infectious disease has, perhaps including AIDS, and can be viewed as a “Black Swan” event. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the Lebanese-American author and scholar, introduced the metaphor of the black swan, a bird that was once thought not to exist, to explain financial events. Subsequently, Taleb extended the Black Swan concept, in his 2007 book of the same name, beyond finance to explain high-profile, difficult-to-predict, and rare events in history and the present1(ppxxi-xxii):

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