Assessing the geographic context of risk perception and behavioral response to potential Ebola exposure

Eric Shook, Andrew Curtis, Jacqueline Curtis, Gregory Gibson, Anthony Vander Horst, Virginia Little, Christopher Woolverton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The 2014–2016 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic outbreak reached over 28,000 cases and totaled over 11,000 deaths with 4 confirmed cases in the United States, which sparked widespread public concern about nationwide spread of EVD. Concern was elevated in locations connected to the infected people, which included Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. This threat of exposure enabled a unique opportunity to assess self-reported knowledge about EVD, risk perception, and behavior response to EVD. Unlike existing studies, which often survey one point in time across geographically coarse scales, this work offers insights into the geographic context of risk perception and behavior at finer-grained spatial and temporal scales. We report results from 3138 respondents comprised of faculty, staff, and students at two time periods. Results reveal increased EVD knowledge, decreased risk perception, and reduction in protective actions during this time. Faculty had the lowest perceived risk, followed by staff and then students, suggesting the role of education in this outcome. However, the most impactful result is the proof-of-concept for this study design to be deployed in the midst of a disease outbreak. Such geographically targeted and temporally dynamic surveys distributed during an outbreak can show where and when risk perception and behaviors change, which can provide policy-makers with rapid results that can shape intervention practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number831
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, grant number CMMI-1515702.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Ebola virus disease
  • Risk reduction behavior


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