Swine Flu and Health Lesson Plans

With the swine flu on everyone's mind, students can benefit from learning about influenza, epidemics, and public health.

By Cathy Neushul

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Swine Flu Lesson Plans

If you’ve been tuning into the news, you'll know that swine flu is at the top of the headlines. With a recent outbreak beginning in Mexico, and suspected of killing more than 150 people so far, health officials are getting prepared for a possible pandemic. So far, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed cases of swine flu in Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and Spain. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are 64 confirmed cases in the United States. Swine flu infections  have been identifiied in New York, Ohio, Kansas, Texas, and California.

With public health a concern, teachers can provide information that can allay students fears, or correct misconceptions. There are many lesson plans that discuss the Spanish Flu of 1918, which has been a focus of scientific research for many reasons. It was a flu that killed millions, targeted young and healthy adults, and was transmitted by soldiers fighting during World War I. This flu provides a model for current pandemics. Frozen samples of the disease have given scientists a way to analyze its structure, and the reasons for its virulence.

While students can benefit from studying the history of pandemics, or learning about viruses and how they mutate, most importantly, teachers can talk about ways to prevent the spread of flu viruses. The CDC recommends frequent hand washing, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and trying to avoid touching your eyes or mouth. This flu outbreak provides a moment for teachers to step in with the information and resources students need to understand epidemics, and help protect themselves from infection.

Flu And Health Lesson Plans: 

Pandemics: The Swine Flu of 1918:  With the current threat of a pandemic posed by swine flu, students can learn about research done on the 1918 outbreak. They discuss the effects of a current virus, and do role-playing activities pretending to be a member of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This lesson provides a great way to make history, and science connect to current events.

1918 Flu: Students will define the risk of viruses, describe how infectious diseases can be prevented, controlled, or cured, create graphs to present their information, and explore preventative measures.  The lesson comes with a vocabulary list of important terms, including bacteriums, virus, and pandemic. It has links to health organizations, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. A great way to get students talking, thinking, and learning about viruses.

Ducks, Pigs, You and the Influenza Virus: In this lesson students learn about viruses, and how new strains of influenza develop. Students discuss the flu shot, and how viruses can be transmitted from animals to humans. This lesson discusses a wide variety of flu types.

For the Birds - Understanding the History of Twentieth Century Flu Outbreaks: Students learn about bird flu, the 1918 flu pandemic, and the research scientists have done to examine these outbreaks. They then create charts to describe the six major flu epidemics of the 20th century. Finally, they create a fictional, but historically accurate account, of what it would have been like to live through one of these scares.

Bird Flu Worries Humans: In this lesson students learn about the bird flu, how it is transmitted,  and how such a virus might affect the United States. Students learn about the flu epidemic of 1918, and read historical documents (newpapers, personal accounts, etc . . .) that tell about the outbreak. This lesson provides a link to a video about bird flu, and links to a variety of resources about the subject.


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Cathy Neushul