The securitization of health is not a new phenomenon. However, global responses to the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa reveal the extent to which epidemic preparedness and response is now shaped by geopolitical concerns.

This commentary describes how enforcement occurs in diverse ways. Comparisons between Uganda and South Africa reveal the importance of analyzing this diversity in relation to past political histories and current socio-political dynamics with a public authority lens. Such an approach also involves reflecting on how past experiences of outbreaks from infectious diseases inform these dynamics.