Friday, February 1, 2013

Got Flu?

Teaching About the Flu With The New York Times

“Flu Attack! How a Virus Invades Your Body,” a video from NPR
Lesson Plans - The Learning NetworkLesson Plans - The Learning Network 
The flu has recently reached epidemic levels in the United States and has spread to at least 10 cuntries in Europe In New York City pharmacies are struggling to meet demands for the vaccine.

First, Get the Facts and learn about how flu attacks the body as well as how to prevent and treat it.
Then, read this article on the 2013 flu
  • Are there different kinds of flu this year? What are they?
  • How well does this year’s flu vaccine match the strains out there? Who should get one?
  • What is the norovirus?
  • Why do doctors think that the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations due to the flu are likely to rise in the coming weeks?
  • What should people who are already sick do?
Spread the Word
If public health officials asked for the help of young people to help prevent the spread of flu among school-aged children and teens, what could you do?
First, read about steps undertaken this year to control the flu in New York, then, perhaps with a partner or group, develop a public health campaign.
What will your message be? How will you make sure it is medically sound? How will you sort facts and hype about the flu, and flu vaccines, from myths? How will you reach your target audience?
Consider creating anything from a YouTube video to a social media campaign for Twitter or Facebook; an informative brochure or Web site to inform families of English language learners; public-service ads designed to appear in public transportation; or a program for an assembly at your own school or an elementary school nearby.
Understand Today’s Flu Vaccines — and the Vaccines of the Future
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
“If I had the perfect answer as to how to make a better flu vaccine, I’d probably get a Nobel Prize,” says Dr. Joseph Bresee, the chief of prevention and epidemiology for the C.D.C.’s flu branch in this article about this year’s flu and the vaccine developed to fight it.
How do vaccines work? Why do we need to get a new flu shot every year? According to this article scientists are moving closer to Dr. Bresee’s dream–a long-lasting, universal flu vaccine that works by attacking a part of the virus that changes little from year to year.

Work With the Data
Flu-related visits to New York City health care providers are making up a much larger share of visits this flu season (red line) compared with other recent years. Go to related post »
N.Y.C. Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene Flu-related visits to New York City health care providers are making up a much larger share of visits this flu season (red line) compared with other recent years.
Along with spreading misery, flu outbreaks also provide a wealth of data. By watching for a spike in Web search terms like “cough” and “fever,” technologists have been able to speed up efforts to detect and map flu outbreaks.
Read about the development of flu trends.Then, report your own family flu data using a crowd-sourced site called Flunearyou. Or, check out a variety of apps that allow you to track the flu across the country. You might then create a graphic of some kind, like the New York City data chart above, to show what you have learned about flu in your local area.
Our lesson plan inspired by the movie “Contagion” suggests more ways and tools to crowdsource disease outbreaks and work with what you discover.
Act Like Epidemiologists Through Gaming and Drills
Real-life flu fighters — epidemiologists, public health experts, virologists and others — routinely engage in cross-disciplinary efforts that integrate a wide range of technologies, from mapping to social media to digital gaming.
To get ready for your own flu-fighting projects, read about real-life virus hunters like Dr. W. Ian Lipkin. What habits of mind, specialized knowledge, and collaborative skills are required to track down the world’s more virulent viruses?
Then, put your gaming know-how to work. Public health experts use an approach called agent-based modeling — similar to games like Sim City — to run scenarios and think more critically about who should be vaccinated first to reduce the spread of flu. You might play a game like the Great Flu  in teams, then reflect on which strategies worked, or didn’t, to control the contagion. How do your strategies compare to the approach hospitals are taking this year  to curb the spread of flu?

Compare Today’s Flu With the Pandemic of 1918
Victims of the 1918 influenza outbreak in Kansas.
National Museum of Health and Science Victims of the 1918 influenza outbreak in Kansas.
What if a Flu Like 1918’s Broke Out Now? asks a 2008 Times article. It begins:
When an outbreak of the Spanish flu spread worldwide in 1918, a doctor in Newark advised his patients that they could cure their illness with red onions and coffee. In Atlantic City, the authorities closed amusement parks and theaters indefinitely. And in upstate New York, public health officials distributed a poster warning people against “careless spitting, coughing, sneezing.”
Those precautions had mixed results, and an estimated 675,000 Americans died during that outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
What do you know about the 1918 flu and its wide-ranging effects? What did we learn from it? Read a Times article from 1918  that describes how New York City fought the flu that year, then read one from 2009 that tells how a 24-year-old graduate student used newspaper archives to learn more about the city’s response that year.

Another resource for learning about other flu pandemics in history? This timeline.
Decide What You Would Do if You Were the School Principal
Let’s say that with flu outbreaks on the rise, your school district is considering cancelling an upcoming public event (for example, a basketball tournament or musical performance).
Applying mathematical modeling and an understanding of how contagions spread, how would you advise the district on whether the event should be a go or no-go? (If it’s a go, you should also recommend precautions to minimize risk, and provide a breakdown of costs and potential benefits.)
Include visual representations of data that help to support your arguments.
Read, or Write, Flu Humor
Go to related Opinionator post »Kristian Hammerstad
If after everything you’ve learned so far you can still laugh about the flu, you might read Teddy Wayne’s Flu Season Health Precautions. Here’s one:
Cover your mouth when you cough. Sneeze into your shoulder. If you sneeze again, sneeze into your opposite shoulder. If you’re one of those people who always sneezes three times in a row, you’re really annoying.
If you’re inspired, write your own satirical set of Flu Season Health Precautions specific to your school, friends or family.



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