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This lesson plan is supplemented with material from

West Nile virus

June 14, 2001
Web posted at: 7:19 PM EDT (2319 GMT)

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Curriculum Connections: Health

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the transmission, health effects, treatment and prevention of the West Nile virus.
  • Plan a public health campaign about West Nile.

Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning
Health standard 2, grades nine-12
High school students need to know how the prevention and control of health problems are influenced by research and medical advances

Suggested time One class period

1. Have students read the following article, "West Nile virus expected to spread across United States" and ask the following questions:

  • What is the West Nile virus? When and where was this virus originally identified? What are the symptoms of this virus? How is it spread? What species of mosquito carry the West Nile? Where in the United States is West Nile being found? How did it get to the United States? How many Americans have been infected with the virus?
  • Are you concerned about contracting West Nile? Why or why not? What segment of the population is most at risk for developing severe symptoms? Why? What is the state of Georgia doing to address the spread of West Nile? How can people protect themselves from becoming infected? Why is this disease difficult to control? Do you think Americans should be concerned about West Nile becoming an epidemic? Discuss.

2. Refer students to online resources, including the first related site link below, to learn more about the transmission, health effects (on humans and animals), treatment and prevention of West Nile encephalitis.

Have students draw upon their research to develop posters, brochures or a radio address to educate members of their community about West Nile, and how to protect themselves from the virus.

Point out to students that West Nile is one of several illnesses that are spread by mosquitoes. Other mosquito-borne diseases include malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. Divide your class into groups and assign each group one of these diseases. Have groups research the epidemiology and impact of these diseases. Groups should focus on where the diseases have occurred, and the benefits and drawbacks of the different methods for treating and stopping their spread. Instruct students to consider the use of drugs and pesticides, the elimination of swampy breeding grounds and the potential use of vaccines and transgenic mosquitoes. Direct students to develop multimedia presentations of their findings. After students present their findings, have them discuss the pros and cons of the methods used to combat the spread of these diseases.

Ask students: How does the geography of the United States provide an environment conducive to the spread of West Nile? Refer students to the last two links below to learn more about the spread and tracking of West Nile in the United States. Then, using a map of North America, have students speculate about the path that West Nile might take through the United States this summer, and if their state is at risk.

Using a map of the United States, color in the states where West Nile has been found and where officials fear it may spread. Then as a class, discuss the role that geography plays in the spread of diseases.

Students can follow's classroom project, "Like the End of the World: 20th Century Epidemics" to discover more about the cyclical nature of epidemics.

CNNfyi Learning Adventure: Virus Encounters
Chat Transcript
Rhonda Rowland: The West Nile Virus
June 16, 2001

West Nile Virus Home Page - CDC Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases (DVBID)
Questions and Answers About West Nile Virus - CDC Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases (DVBID)
West Nile Virus Maps -
West Nile Virus Map

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