Anthropological Approaches to Outbreak Investigations in Bangladesh

Shahana Parveen, Rebeca Sultana, Stephen P. Luby, Emily S. Gurley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In Bangladesh, the anthropological approach complements the multidisciplinary outbreak investigation team by describing the illness, exposures, local disease interpretation, and behaviors associated with the illness to explain specific outbreak context. Anthropologists and sociologists use conventional qualitative tools, such as in-depth interview or group discussion with the affected community residents to explore the traditional norms, practices, and beliefs that are linked with the disease paradigm. During a fatal Nipah virus outbreak in 2007, the anthropological investigation identified the behaviors through which person-to-person transmission of Nipah virus occurred. During a pufferfish poisoning outbreak in 2008, the anthropological investigation identified that the availability of the larger marine pufferfish in the local market at an inexpensive price and lack of awareness about its toxicity contributed to fatalities. Anthropological investigations become a key part of the multidisciplinary outbreak team and were vital for explaining the cultural context of the outbreaks leading to the identification of appropriate preventative measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWhen Culture Impacts Health
Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Lessons for Effective Health Research
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780124159211
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthropological investigation
  • Bangladesh
  • Multidisciplinary team
  • Nipah virus transmission
  • Outbreak
  • Pufferfish poisoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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