University to offer Ebola course spring semester

Samantha Ickes

Dallas nurse Amber Vinson’s visit to the Akron area days before she tested positive for the Ebola virus caused concern in the Kent community, especially since three of Vinson’s relatives work on the campus.

So with the concerns about the virus in Northeast Ohio, Tara Smith, an associate professor in epidemiology and biostatistics, created the idea to offer a special topics course centered on the virus.

The course, “Ebola Past and Present: From Zaire to Kent,” explores the history of the virus and how the virus spread throughout the globe from West Africa to the U.S.

A virus like Ebola does not respect borders and can easily cross to other countries. A disease “can be anywhere in the world in 24 hours,” Smith said.

While the class will focus on Ebola, it will also discuss more general applications to all infectious diseases.

The course studies a “broad overview of diseases and why they occur,” Smith said.

The course will also look at the different angles students may not have considered before, including basic biology of the virus, media response to its emergence in the U.S. and the politics involved in prevention and control of the virus.

“I think we’re going to see emergences of these viruses over and over,” Smith said. “It’s not going to be unique with Ebola.”

Chris Woolverton, a professor for environment health sciences and an epidemiologist, will guest lecture for the Ebola course.

Woolverton said he plans to “piece together an accurate timeline to help people understand and learn from past examples.”

One of the goals of the course is to educate students on the virus to prevent panic if another case appears in the U.S.

“It’s an old cliché, but it’s a very valid one,” Woolverton said. “Knowledge is power.”

Through educating students about the virus, it will prevent people from “panicking and getting overly excited,” Smith said.

The course is open to all students. There are no pre-requisites in order to enroll.

The College of Public Health will offer the course Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:45 to 5 p.m. in Kent Hall for the 2015 spring semester.

“Hopefully everyone will learn something new and a little bit out of their comfort zone,” Smith said. 

Contact Samantha Ickes at [email protected].