Educating ourselves about epidemics

Usha Raman

swine-flu-mask One of the topics that is covered in nearly all syllabi, whether state or central, is health and disease. Typically this appears in the textbook in some form in class 8 or 9. The CBSE 9th class syllabus has a topic called “Health and its failure” and similar themes occur under different titles across chapters dealing with human biology and social health.

Almost every year we are faced with a new and alarmingly quick-spreading infection. A few years ago it was the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and then it was avian flu and most recently, swine flu. In between we are visited by several more familiar infections including chikungunya, dengue, malaria and various forms of meningitis. One of the class periods under the unit “Health and its failure” might be devoted to the issue of global outbreaks of disease and the spread of such “new” infections. The topic offers the opportunity to discuss a variety of issues, some related to biology, others related to public health policy and yet others to statistics and epidemiology. While some of these areas may be quite complex, it is important – not to mention useful – for young people to get an idea of how civic life is closely related to individual health.

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