New Animal Science Anywhere lesson highlights role of epidemiologists during a disease outbreak

“Be a Detective: Understanding Disease Outbreaks” lesson helps explain the roles of epidemiologist when identifying and responding to a disease outbreak.

Animal Science Anywhere lesson

When a pandemic or disease outbreaks occurs, a group of scientists will begin investigating the circumstances surround the outbreak. One type of public health official who will help lead the investigation is called an epidemiologist. These scientists identify people who are most at risk to be impacted by the disease, how it occurred and what can be done to prevent or stop the disease in the future. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serves as the national public health institute that develops and applies disease prevention and control measures, environmental health and health education activities designed to improve the health of the people within the United States. To better understand the roles of epidemiologists and the CDC during a disease outbreak, a graphic novel was created. “Junior Disease Detectives – Operation: Outbreak” was developed in partnership between the CDC, 4-H and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Junior Disease Detectives – Operation: Outbreak” follows a teenage boy named Eddie who has potentially been exposed to a zoonotic disease. A zoonotic disease is an illness that is caused by an infectious agent that is spread between animals and people. Michigan State University Extension’s Zoonotic Disease webpage has a wide range of resources about proper handwashing, the dos and don’ts for staying healthy around animals, and the basics of biosecurity for helping to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.

As part of the Michigan 4-H Animal Science Anywhere activities, a new lesson plan was designed to supplement the “Junior Disease Detectives – Operation: Outbreak.” MSU Extension’s “Be a Detective: Understanding Disease Outbreaks” will help small group leaders and youth participants understand the different roles and responsibilities of scientists, epidemiologists, the health department and the CDC during a disease outbreak. After completing the activity, youth will be able to:

  • Describe the steps of an outbreak investigation.
  • Identify the group or groups at higher risk for variant influenza.
  • Identify the source and risk factors for disease transmission in a story.
  • Describe the outbreak in a story in terms of time, place and affected population.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

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