Virtually Viral

Virtually Viral

Watch how Pardis Sabeti uses computational models to study patterns in large datasets of infectious diseases, then have students learn more about an Ebola outbreak in Africa using articles, maps, and computational models.


5 - 12+


Biology, Health, Geography, Human Geography

Made Possible By
Lockheed Martin

Idea for Use in the Classroom

Pardis Sabeti uses computational models to study patterns in large amounts of data to learn more about how infectious diseases, such as the Ebola virus, spread quickly through populations. Assign students to small groups and have them explore the Seeking the Source of Ebola map, having each member of the group focus closely on one part of the map for a few minutes and then share with the whole group what they learned. Have each group come to a conclusion for how it is believed that Ebola spreads throughout Africa.

Next, have students examine human disease transmission more generally by using the Interactive Lab: Disease Labs Disease Simulator. Have small groups of students compare what they observe from this computational model with the conclusion they drew from the Ebola map.

Finally, have students read an April 2019 Ebola virus news update from the World Health Organization about the spread of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Have students analyze the graphs and tables contained in the news update. Based on their conclusions from the Ebola map of 2014–2015 and the computational model, have students design a poster for an education campaign that advises people on how to protect themselves from contracting Ebola.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Heather J. Johnson, Vanderbilt University
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Educator Reviewer
Alexandra M. Silva, Science Educator, Peter Gruber International Academy, Virgin Islands 9-12 International Baccalaureate MYP Science, DP Biology, and DP Environmental Systems & Societies MEd Instructional Leadership: Science Education; MS Ecology & Evolution
Program Specialist
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

September 27, 2022

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