What geography can teach us about disease spread: Ebola in Dallas, Texas | Department of Geography and the Environment
October 3, 2014

What geography can teach us about disease spread: Ebola in Dallas, Texas

Professor of Geography Joseph Oppong was recently interviewed by NBC news regarding the potential spread of Ebola in Dallas, Texas. A medical geographer with a geographic focus on Africa and North America, Oppong has been studying the spatial distribution of disease and health for decades. What we know from this research is that patterns of disease incidence and spread are far from simple - they are influenced by social, cultural, economic, and political factors.

In his recent interview, Oppong illustrated how these factors have contributed to the spread of Ebola in Africa. Among the most important, loved ones often care for and participate in the burial of family members infected with the virus. Without proper protection, individuals are vulnerable to infection. In some cases, relatives travel long distances and even cross political borders to assist family members in need. This also contributes to spread. Recent violence and war in Liberia and Sierra Leone have exacerbated the issue, leaving these countries with inadequate health care and support.

So what about Ebola in Texas? Oppong believes that while there will likely be cases in the U.S., the cultural and institutional context do not provide the same setting for Ebola spread as in Africa. For more on this story, please see