The Hot Zone: Ebola and Studying Abroad in South Africa

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In May 2014, 11 students (+1 fantabulous professor) and I ventured to Cape Town, South Africa. Nothing was on my newsfeed about Ebola before my departure (the first case recorded this year was in March), but oh boy! When I returned in June I was overwhelmed by the media coverage of the disease, especially as it spread through the continent. South Africa is currently reported to be a region of “medium risk,” but my beloved Cape Town has remained Ebola-free. They have implemented strict protocols for incoming travelers from Ebola affected areas and have banned outgoing travel to those places as well.

The Ebola outbreak mostly affects Central and West Africa. To ensure Kentuckians’ peace of mind, no one in the state has been affected by the disease. So, Ebola currently poses no threat to the homeland. However, three U.S. citizens (who were susceptible to the disease abroad) were given treatment and are recovering from what is such a fatal illness nearly 9,000 miles away.

I won’t ever forget my biology professor, who was an African native. She assigned us “The Hot Zone,” by Richard Preston. The book explores the origin of the Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in conjunction with the incidents reported before the non-fiction’s publication in 1994. Preston really hit the nail on the head with this ‘gruesome’ thriller when it hit the shelves. From this particular biology course, my most memorable moment was not dissecting animal genitalia, but rather, reading about a horrible disease that may cause bleeding out of every orifice.

Since the first case this year to Sept. 6, 2014, Ebola has taken the lives of almost 2,300 people. For us, it is vital that we remain up to date on issues that could directly impact our nation.

For some of my friends who do not frequent their e-mail handle as often as I do—I’m talking to you with the 3,250 push notifications (do those not bother you?). You most likely received an e-mail from University of Kentucky Student Affairs regarding the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). The campus message, drafted by Kentucky Department for Public Health, contained a few hyperlinks. For your immediate reference, you can access them here:

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has developed a menagerie of communication resources ranging from infographics (my favorite) to audio clips. It is crucial for us to be aware of the CDC’s updates in addition to efforts being made abroad.  I encourage you to browse through the plethora of Ebola collateral. The more you know, man.

I’ll give it to you straight (no chaser), our job as students is to do ‘the work’ both in and out of the classroom. We should educate ourselves so that we are better equipped to make decisions that help us reach our goals. Studying abroad is an opportunity that is within our reach right now, as for the future, can you imagine how far we could go? Figuratively, what we put into the world we receive tenfold. The more you know.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered,


Harlie Collins is a senior at the University of Kentucky majoring in Integrated Strategic Communications with a Public Relations emphasis, minoring in Spanish. 

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