Apr
30
2009

Why has this flu outbreak been such a concern?

It has been an unusual time this week in school. The normal activities by the students and the end of the semester processes have been overshadowed by the news of the influenza H1H1 outbreak in Mexico and the subsequent spread around the world. In one week we have gone from a World Health Organization level 3 to a Level 6 warning. Our small university has put in place the plans it has for a pandemic outbreak even though our state has had only one confirmed outbreak of the flu. Why is this flu raising such a fuss? As of today there have been 109 known outbreaks of the flu with one confirmed death.
If we look at Pandemics from the past things were quite different. In 1918 there were 1,000,000 US deaths and over 40 million worldwide. In 1957 over 70,000 US deaths were recorded and over 1 million worldwide. The last known pandemic occurred in 1968 pandemic with over 40,000 US deaths. Why are we concerned about this flu? Wasn’t the H5N1 Bird flu of 2005 much more deadly? Well the discussion, proposal and possible answer to these questions may be a good way for us to really teach biology and its impact on society.
Yes we know that we have unprecedented global travel and our population crowding is unprecedented in mankind’s history. We have exponential growth in swine and fowl populations in SE Asia creating such a factory for new and rapidly mutating viruses. Public health issues are such a way to tie all of biology together and the current outbreak may be one of the best teaching moments we have.
Examine the three sites below and write on how we can use this to teach biology!

http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/Flu/

http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/Flu/Research/basic/AntigenicShiftIllustration.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/

Written by John Moore in: Biology Teaching |

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