Swine Flu Update


It is everywhere. In fact, you may be reading this from home because school is closed because of a swine flu outbreak. One of the hallmarks of a great advisory is helping students to talk through the challenging and scary events of the day.  What makes us most fearful and irrational in our life? How can we look at it in many angles, and with a rational lens.  Now is our chance with the Swine Flu; it is scary, the mechanisms (biology of viruses and vaccines) may be new to students, the locus of danger (mostly young people dying) is rare, and the controversy about vaccinations is confusing.  There is a lot to parse out.


  • Take a look at the Pandemics Applet – (Very Cool!) There is a great resource of questions and an explanation of the math of a pandemic at this NCTM site.
  • Take a look at the Map on the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) website about Swine flu; look particularly at the regional maps to see how the virus has been spreading over time in those regions.
  • Go to your state Health Department website to look at the H1N1 Plan to distribute the vaccinations.  What percent of people in your state will be served now? In the next month (based on projections)?  What about the percent based on different age groups?
  • Create a graph of the current statistics.  (You might also have look at the graphs on the CDC Website and tell the story of these graphs in words.  How would they explain them to a 4th grader?)
  • Look up numbers of flu fatalities for the past 10 years.  How many people die from the flu each year? What part of the population is this mostly? How many people have died from Swine Flu?  How does it compare?
  • Make a poster explaining how to protect each other from spreading the Flu.
  • Research and memorialize one of the victims of the Swine Flu.

Some questions to delve into:

  1. How do vaccines work?  How do they use your bodies natural defense systems to make us safer? (Look at this site for basics on antigens and leukocytes)
  2. Why are vaccines a public health issue, not just an individual issue? At what point should vaccines be mandatory (if any)? Discuss? (You might look over this short writing at The Responsibility Project)
  3. What is the flu (influenza)? What is the Swine flu and where did it come from? Why is it so different (and deadly) from seasonal flu?
  4. What is a pandemic? How do they develop? What is the history of  the 1918 Influenza?  What other pandemics have been in the history of the world.  (5 Worst Pandemics, A Brief History of Flu Pandemic, NCTM page about Pandemics )

Other Resources:

Enciendalo! (and wash your hands)