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Understanding the Epidemiologic Triangle through Infectious Disease Working the Epidemiologic Triangle

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This activity will get students interested in infectious diseases by discussing and charting their own experiences. Students will, without knowing it, act like young epidemiologists.

The activity also will help you teach about the scientific concept of the Epidemiologic Triangle using an infectious disease example. Once students understand the Triangle, they can apply it to other diseases they study. This exercise will refine research, reasoning, and problem solving skills.

You will present the Epidemiologic Triangle to students and show them how it helps organize information about a specific disease. This is the same technique that epidemiologists use when they are researching the outbreak of a disease.

You will use the example of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in describing the three vertices (corners) of the Epidemiologic Triangle. Those vertices are "agent," "host," and "environment." After this in-class introduction, students will gather information about chickenpox and report back to the class on what they have learned.

Students will:

  • Describe what infectious diseases are and how they spread
  • Explore their own family's experience with infectious diseases
  • Describe the interaction and interdependence of agent host, and environment—the Epidemiologic Triangle
  • Apply this concept to other diseases
  • Describe how epidemiologists think about the causes and spread of an infectious disease

Relevant Standards:
This activity fulfills science and health education standards [PDF - 255 KB].

BAM! Body and Mind Resources:

  • Disease Detectives — Profiles CDC "detectives" as they track down the source of diseases and help stop them.
  • The Immune Platoon — Profiles the body's own super hero team dedicated to protecting it from infectious and other diseases that threaten good health.
  • Power Packing — Tips for students on packing a safe lunch that keeps them fueled all day long.
  • Stalking SARS — Students can track SARS and CDC's work to stop it from the beginning in this interactive feature.
  • Operation Flame Out — Students can examine the process that CDC uses to tackle public health problems such as smoking.