Hamline News

Analyzing an Outbreak


Last spring Professor of Global Studies Kathryn Geurts ordered books for her class, “Culture, Illness, and Health.” The book she chose was about Ebola in Africa. Now, six months later Ebola has become a major headline and issue around the world and United States.

Students have been bringing news media pieces to class which are discussed and analyzed, giving students the unique opportunity to learn about the topic as it is currently unfolding. One student, Kevin Ham, says he is amazed by what he is seeing in the media they are analyzing in class. “I am continually amazed at what is and is not being reported by certain media outlets, the fear that is being generated through a lack of education about this disease and its progression.”

The class is comparing the current outbreak to other Ebola outbreaks that happened in the 1990s, 2004/05, and 2007. The class has also focused on why Ebola has been so difficult to control in West Africa. “Early on we were struck by the observation that a lack of staff, stuff, and systems was at the root of the rapid spread of the virus. Students began to see how the three countries at the epicenter of the problem face a dearth of health care staff (e.g.one doctor for every 100,000 people), basic medical supplies, and systems by which basic screening could be accomplished,” says Professor Geurts.

Several of the students in the class were interested in this topic because they are health science majors. One student Chris Conley, a health science major, appreciates being able to take a class outside of his major, that gives him a different lens to view his major through. “Without this class I feel that I would have overlooked how the culture of a community plays such a large role in how something like this can spread so quickly.”