Medical geographer available to discuss spread of Ebola virus, other diseases

Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 14:07

The World Health Organization has officially declared the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has resulted in the virus killing more than 1,000 people, a "public health emergency of international concern," which indicates that the world is facing a serious health emergency that requires a "coordinated international response." Ebola, swine flu and polio are the only diseases to receive this designation.

Joseph Oppong, professor of geography at the University of North Texas and current U.S. representative to the International Geographical Union Commission on Health and the Environment, is available to discuss how geography has impacted the spread of the Ebola virus and how the current outbreak compares to other pandemics.

Oppong tracks the spread of diseases using information about geography, demographics, health care delivery and social and cultural behavior. A native of Ghana, he often focuses on Africa.

"Infectious diseases don't respect political boundaries; they don't need visas to travel to other countries," he says, noting that global pandemics, such as the flu, have typically happened every 30 years, but now the speed and ease of travel between and within nations, and more people living in urban areas, expedites rapid disease spread.

Thus, the Ebola virus will spread more rapidly than it would have if the virus was confined to a remote rural area, he says.

"In fact, the volume, speed and reach of travel today have so accelerated the spread of communicable diseases that national boundaries no longer offer isolation or protection," Oppong says.

Oppong may be reached at 940-369-7245 or at Oppong@unt.edu.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108