It's Contagious

What happens when a hundred people sneeze without covering their faces? How does hand-washing save lives? This eight-week unit explores infectious disease, and is led by leading epidemiologist ____ from ____. He/she guides through a sequence of one-on-one chats the study of several contemporary infectious diseases--Ebola, Avian flu, Tuberculosis—as well as the behavioral, social and cultural factors that drive the spread of infection. A variety of summary and deep-dive readings explore the behavioral dimensions of infectious disease, and illustrate how contagion follows an algorithmic growth pattern, calling on understanding of exponents. Questions are also raised about appropriate public policy responses, highlighting the sometimes conflicting objectives of public health and personal freedom and mobility.

Questions to Think About

What’s the difference between a virus and a bacterium? How do they communicate?
What is a vector-borne infection? What kinds of vectors do you know about?
What does a virus do when it gets into your body?
What does bacteria do when it gets into your body? Can you name a specific type of bacteria and describe what it does?
How does hand-washing work?
Make a simple model. Estimate how many people touch a door handles in your school (or home) in one hour. If your hands are carrying bacteria, and you use the door handle, how long would it take for 2 people to get the bacteria on their hands? 100 people?
What happens when you sneeze without covering on a metro train?
What are bacteria doing inside an airplane? What would be the effect of wearing a mask?
Not all viruses communicate in the same way. Describe how the Ebola virus communicates.
Describe how Avian Influenza communicates?
If one person riding on a Boeing-737 (without mask), has Avian Influenza on a flight bound for London-Heathrow, from which he transfers over 3 hours across 2 terminals to an Airbus-A380, estimate how many people may catch the virus? Describe your method.
What would happen if a nurse cut costs by changing her latex gloves after every three patients?
What would happen if a nurse put on her latex gloves and then opened and closed the door to a hospital room?
What would be the difference between putting a sink and handsoap in every patient room in a hospital, compared to one at the end of the hallway?
Should nurses and doctors who treat sick patients wear the same clothes to deliver babies? What do hospitals do to keep babies safe?
What’s the difference between a doctor using paper towels versus a cloth towel after washing his hands in a clinic?
What happens to a bacterium when it’s exposed to the same low-level antibiotic for a long period of time?
Why might it be important to regulate access to antibiotics?
Why do schools enc


Recommended Courses


Recommended Articles

Show Me the Science: Why Wash Your Hands, Atlanta: Center for Disease Control, last updated 2017.
Amy Maxmen, How the Fight Against Ebola Tested a Culture’s Traditions, National Geographic, January 30, 2015.
MD Aileen M Marty, Elena Marty-Nelson, Eloisa C. Rodriguez-Dod, The Intersection of Law, Religion, and Infectious Disease on the Handling and Disposition of Human Remains, SSRN Electronic Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.2739964, January 2016. Full article. Presentation.
RI Ejemot, JE Ehiri, MM Meremikwu, JA Critchley, Hand washing for preventing diarrhea, Cochrane Database for Systemic Review, Jan 23, 2008;(1):CD004265.
AE Aiello, RM Coulborn, V Perez, EL Larson, Effect of hand hygiene on infectious disease risk in the community setting: A meta-analysis, American Journal of Public Health, August 2008; 98(8): 1372-81.
T Rabie, V Curtis, Handwashing and risk of respiratory infections: a quantitative systemic review, Tropical Medicine and International Health, March 2006; 11(3): 258-67.
MM Ashour, AM Khatab, RF El-Folly, WA Amer, Clinical features of avian influenza in Egyptian patients, Journal of the Egyptian Society of Parasitology, August 2012; 42(2): 385-96.
T Barry, S Manning, MS Lee, R Eggleton, S Hampton, J Kaur, MG Baker, N Wilson, Respiratory hygiene practices by the public during the 2009 influenza pandemic: An observational study, Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses, September 201; 5(5): 317-20.
Saleh Kalantari, Mohammad Hassan Saleh Tabari, Growthmorph: Bacteria Growth Algorithm and Design, Hong Kong: 22nd International Conference of the Association for Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia 2017, 479-488, 2017.
A Dudnyk, O Rzhepishevska, K Rogach, G Kutsyna, C Lange, Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Ukraine at a time of military conflict, International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, April 2015; 19(4): 492-3.