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Epidemiology of a Pandemic - Lecture in a Box

Published August 19, 2020


Instructors - with everything else you are handling during this bizarre semester, brushing up on your epidemiology may not be high on your list.  But students have been bombarded with a lot of information (good and bad) about how pandemics work, and they will probably be looking to you for answers.  I have taught epidemiology to undergraduates for over 20 years, and I put together a little 30-minute lecture that you can pop in to your course, pain-free!  In this lecture, with clear slides and narration by me, your students will get information on what epidemiology actually is, how SARS-CoV-2 how screening tests work (including specificity vs. sensitivity), why some people get sick and others don't, herd immunity, contact tracing, vaccine preparation, and more.

Also: here are some multiple-choice questions you can use for polling, or quizzing. (Best single answer.)

  1. If a screening test has a high rate of false positives, it is
    1. not very specific
    2. not very sensitive
    3. still better than a diagnostic test
  2. Herd immunity will be effective when _____% of the population is immune or protected in some way.
    1. 100%
    2. 50%
    3. it varies depending on the microorganism
    4. it varies depending on what country the epidemic is in
  3. Which of the following circumstances can contribute to herd immunity in the case of COVID-19?
    1. vaccination
    2. having the disease and recovering
    3. using social distancing/masking
    4. all of the above
    5. all but one of the above
  4. A zoonosis is
    1. an infection which humans can acquire from an animal
    2. an infection with a microbe that mutates in order to be able to jump from animals to humans
    3. an infection of large animals
    4. more than one of the above.





About the Author

Kelly Cowan has taught at Miami University since 1993 and was the Middletown Campus Dean from 2005-2009. She was interim director at the local campus of Cincinnati State and Technical College for 2015. She is the author of two successful McGraw-Hill microbiology textbooks. Her interest in under-resourced students led her to her now full-time engagement in two arenas: 1) with students and residents in generational poverty; and 2) with institutions - civic and educational - who serve them. Kelly grew up in eastern Kentucky and was educated at the University of Louisville, the University of Maryland, and the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. She founded a large non-profit in Middletown that supports the cradle-to-career education of under-resourced families helping them move to self-sufficiency. Kelly is also available, schedule permitting, to speak on these topics at your school, at no or little cost to you. To contact Kelly, please visit her website at

Profile Photo of Kelly Cowan