Disease Cycles

The cycles of diseases have had a profound impact on human history--from the plague to leprosy to today's continued struggles with malaria and sleeping sickness and AIDS.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about disease cycles.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about disease cycles.

American Lung Association
Visit the American Lung Associations and check out their lung diseases A-Z.
Center for Disease Control
Read the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC to find out the most current information about the cycles of disease. Check out the CDC's list of diseases and find out the natural history of each disease, how it is spread, how it is diagnosed, its distribution, its prevention and control, and more.
The Irish Potato Famine
Travel to Ireland to understand how the cycle of a plant disease named Phytophthora infestans affected that country in the 1840s. Discover how dependent this country was on potatoes for its main food crop and how the potato blight spread throughout the land.
The Peloponnesian War
Pericles, one of the military leaders from Athens , had over 200,000 people flee from the outlying countryside and gather in Athens for protection from the pesky Spartans. While Athens was coping with this huge influx of people, the plague broke out and killed more than a third of the population of all of Athens, including Pericles.
The Peopling of Mexico from Origins to Revolution
Take a trip to Mexico in the 1500s during the time of the Spanish invasion. The Europeans introduced diseases into Mexico and Central and South America that had a devastating impact on the native peoples.
Views of the Famine
Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred. Read newspaper articles from the 1840s for historical perspective on the potato famine.

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People To See

Answers.Com – Louis Pasteur
He discovered that heating milk to high temperatures killed germs and thus made milk safer and more accessible for longer periods of time to the general public. He also figured out that certain diseases could be prevented through injecting people with a weakened form of the disease in order to build immunity.
Ask the Doctor Services
Choose from this long list of medical issues to find out more about the spread of infectious diseases.
BBC: John Snow
Get introduced to John Snow. In the 1850s, he discovered that the disease cycle of cholera was spread through water rather than through airborne sources.
Doctors Without Borders
These doctors are a part of a medical relief agency that helps victims of armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and others who lack health care due to geographic remoteness or ethnic marginalization.
Elizabeth Lee Hazen and Rachel Fuller Brown
Meet Elizabeth Lee Hazen and Rachel Fuller Brown. They were pioneers in creating antibiotics in the 1950s.
Ignaz Semmelweis
In 1861, he observed that the patients of doctors who performed autopsies suffered from more infections than the patients of doctors who did not perform autopsies. From this, he concluded that infection was spread by the contaminated hands of doctors.
Jonas Salk
Meet Jonas Salk and learn how he developed a vaccine for polio. Prior to 1955, polio was a crippling disease to millions worldwide. Salk's vaccine has virtually eradicated the disease.
Nobel Prize: Alexander Fleming
Encounter Alexander Fleming. Find out how he felt about the fungus Penicillium notatum.
Nobel Prize: Robert Koch
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. He worked with the new science of bacteriology and discovered that specific bacteria or organisms cause specific diseases.
Nova: The Most Dangerous Woman in America
Typhoid Mary was a carrier of the deadly disease of typhoid but was never sick herself. Her real name was Mary Mallon, and she was considered such a threat to public health in New York City in the early 1900s that she was quarantined on North Brother Island in the East River for 23 years.
The Official Mad Cow Disease Page
The Internet's largest and most authoritative site for prions, mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE), scrapie, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD and nvCJD), kuru,and chronic wasting disease (CWD). Over 6966 articles, updated twice weekly.
Sir Edwin Chadwick
He was a 19th century sanitary reformer. He was instrumental in helping to get a law passed called the UK Sanitary Act of 1866 that helped improve water systems, waste disposal, and housing standards.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Meet some sick cows and learn about the cycle of this disease, how it is spread, who is at risk, how to keep yourself safe, and the impact that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is having on the economy of affected countries.

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Things To Do

1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
An introduction to the most deadly human plague of the twentieth century: Spanish Influenza. Contains links to swine flu and bird flu resources and the science thriller Ninth Day of Creation, in which the microbe is resurrected by an ambitious San Diego biotechnology company.
An antibiotic (the Greek word anti which means against and the Greek word bio which means life) is any substance produced by a microorganism which can kill or inhibit the growth of a different microorganism. Find out how antibiotics can help stop the cycle of disease.
Bugs in the News
What is E.coli? What is mad cow disease? What is a virus? What is an antibody? Find out from this germy site.
Center for Disease Control - Influenza Prevention and Control
Learn more about the flu. Influenza viruses are divided into three types, designated A, B, and C. These viruses are constantly changing which means that people are susceptible to getting the flu throughout their lives.
Division of Global Migration and Quarantine
Learn which diseases are quarantine-able in today's world. Historically, there were three types of quarantine used as early methods of fighting infection: isolating sick individuals, restricting freedom of movement during epidemics, and isolating healthy people who had been exposed to infectious disease.
Influenza 1918
Learn about what has been called the most devastating outbreak of disease in the history of the world. The influenza pandemic in 1918 and 1919 killed between 20 and 40 million people.
Insects, Disease, and Military History
Discover the relationship that diseases spread by insects have had on history. Entomologists (scientists who study insects) have long understood the impact that insects and disease have had on history.
New York State Department of Health Communicable Disease Fact Sheets
Find out how diphtheria, ringworm, typhoid fever, leprosy, and hantavirus are spread.
Plague Factsheet
Plague is not an eradicated disease. The United States averages about 13 cases per year. There are three forms of plague: Bubonic, Septicemic, and Pneumonic.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Figure out how the cycles of the weather affect the cycles of ticks which then affects the spread of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Learn about the disease that was called consumption for much of its history. Tuberculosis appears in Greek literature as far back as 450 B.C.
Utah Department of Health Immunization Department
Learn which immunizations you need to protect against infectious diseases.
World Health Organization
Check out the World Health Organization to learn about the cycles of malaria infection and other worldwide diseases.
World Health Organization: Smallpox
Discover how smallpox has affected humanity over the past 3000 years. This disease would sweep across continents and kill 30% of all who were infected with it.
Learn a new word today. Asepsis is the process of inhibiting the growth and multiplication of microorganisms. It means wash your hands a lot.
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Teacher Resources

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  • Corzine, Phyllis. The Black Death. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, c1997.
  • Dehesh, Hadayat. How Not To Catch A Cold. Southfield, MI: Global Pub., 1996.
  • Demuth, Patricia. Achoo!: All About Colds. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, c1997.
  • Maynard, Christopher. Micro Monsters: Life Under the Microscope. New York: DK Pub., 1999.
  • McGowen, Tom. The Black Death. New York: F. Watts, c1995.
  • Silverstein, Alvin. Common Cold and Flu. Hillside, N.J., U.S.A.: Enslow Publishers, c1994.
  • Weitzman, Elizabeth. Let's Talk About Having the Flu. New York: Rosen Pub. Group's PowerKids Press, 1997.