Lesson Ideas

Three Scientific Articles about Outbreaks of Deadly Infectious Diseases

At present, a pandemic of a deadly virus is on everyone’s minds. We’ve selected three adaptations of scientific papers to help students learn about how science helps us deal with outbreaks of deadly infectious diseases. All of these papers look at outbreaks in the last ten years. Our adaptations include an introductory video to catch students’ interest as well as comprehension questions to guide and check their reading. They lend themselves very well to use in remote classrooms, distance learning and as online assignments.

How Deadly Is Ebola?

The most recent deadly epidemic most students are likely to remember is the West African Ebola epidemic of 2013-2016. The case fatality ratio (CFR) estimates varied widely during the outbreak. In this article, scientists analyzed thousands of cases from that outbreak to try to figure out what makes some Ebola infections deadlier than others – and most importantly, what factors helped some of the patients survive. They used mathematical models to investigate the effects of various factors on clinical outcomes and discovered that age was important (since most young adults survived but higher percentages of the very young and very old died) as was hospitalization (since 93% of Ebola patients who weren’t hospitalized died.)

This adaptation is suitable for a high school reading level and includes both a map and a scatter plot.

Who Is at Risk for Cholera in Africa?

Cholera is a dangerous bacterial infection that has been largely eliminated in more developed countries but still threatens millions of people each year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers in this article looked at information from cases in this region between 2010 and 2016 to see where people were at the highest risk. Using representative sampling and data extrapolation they found that the disease does not affect people equally in all countries; instead, cholera epidemics occur most often in limited areas. Focusing prevention efforts on these “high-risk” areas would be much more efficient: in fact, this research indicates we could get rid of half of all cholera cases by targeting only 4% of the population!

This adaptation is suitable for a middle school or lower high school reading level and includes results data presented on a map.

What If You Share a Drink with a Bat?

The recently discovered Nipah virus is one of several viruses transmitted by bats. In this epidemiological study, scientists looked into 14 cases of people in Bangladesh who got sick from the virus between 2011 and 2014, hoping to identify the source of their infection. They did quite a lot of detective work and eventually found that eight of them drank fermented palm sap – the local palm wine. Recognizing that drinking contaminated palm wine is a potential way to get infected with Nipah virus makes it possible to recommend measures to prevent contact between bats and the sap.

This adaptation is suitable for a middle school or lower high school reading level and includes explanatory pictographs.

That’s Not All!

Our site offers hundreds of scientific articles, many of them about infectious diseases, outbreaks, disease control and health and medical topics. Everything is free to download! Just use the filter to find the ones you need.

Share this Lesson Idea

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Check out this Related lesson idea

Latest Scientific Articles

We want to hear from you!

If you are a teacher and you used some of our resources in class, we want your feedback! Please fill out this Teacher Feedback survey!

Journal funding support from:

Recommended by: