Graduate students study Ebola prevention for class credit

Samantha Ickes

Five communication studies graduate students have focused their study on the Ebola epidemic for a Kent State public health course.

The class, called Communication and Transnational Trend Analysis, allows groups to focus on different transactional trends such as terrorism, human trafficking and food crises.

 “We look at wicked problems, really tough problems that don’t respect national boundaries,” said Stephanie Smith, assistant professor and instructor.

Through the course, students are able to “see and interpret the world in a different way, through a transactional lens, to help them think about the conditions in the world that cross borders often unpredictably,” Smith said.

Alisa Frye, a communication studies graduate student, said that many people do not realize the ties Ebola has with the food crisis in Liberia.

 “The food is directly related to how Ebola is caught,” Smith said.

Ebola spreads through bush meat, which is a main source of protein in Liberia, causing a long-lasting effect on crops in the future, she said.

“Some of the research that we’ve done is looking at the causes and future aspects of Ebola and particularly the impact that the bush meat diet has on that,” said Daniel Smith, a graduate student working in communication studies.

Smith said the people of Liberia eat small animals in bush meat, such as bats, rats and monkeys which can carry and transmit the disease to humans.

The graduate students used their research and information to petition for a warning campaign about the disease and how it is spread. The petition was submitted to the Global Citizens Festival, in which the students participated, playing the role of a non-profit organization for the course.

“Our end goal is to have a warning campaign, in our case it’s going to be a warning campaign for the people in Liberia, to avoid eating the bush meat diet and to propose that we should have a replacement protein,” Daniel Smith said. “The problem is that while Ebola may kill, the bigger problem is that Ebola cripples. It cripples the nation. It cripples the nation’s food supply.”

Contact Samantha Ickes at [email protected].