On August 19, 2014, Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was faced with an agonizing decision: should she quarantine a densely populated township of Monrovia to halt the spread of the Ebola virus disease? The disease had been ravaging the Republic of Liberia for months but until now, had been isolated in the countryside. Now, the deadly virus was spreading, unchecked, and threatened the 1 million inhabitants of Monrovia, the capital city of the Republic of Liberia. At 5pm she would meet with military and health advisors to hear their recommendations.
This case describes the rise and spread of the Ebola virus disease in Liberia and the actions taken by all levels of government, NGOs, volunteers and the community that led to a quarantine within the West Point township. The case is presented in three parts to allow faculty to pose the question, “Should President Sirleaf impose a quarantine?” (A case) before asking students to reconsider the question in light of the community’s response to the government and security force actions (B case). An epilogue describes how the West Point community engaged in a peaceful and effective resolution.
This teaching case allows students to consider the roles of government, NGOs, security forces and local communities in containing a viral epidemic. In particular, students examine how and whether security forces can be used to impose quarantines and consider the ramifications of such a decision.