Activities at Home #4: Infection Inspection (Grades 9-11)

Greetings Museum of Health Care Friends! In light of ongoing efforts to limit the transmission of COVID-19, this activity has been modified from the original version for offsite, home use. (Normally, this activity is completed as part of the “Infection Inspection” education program offered at the Museum of Healthcare at Kingston.)

Learning Outcomes:

Students will apply their knowledge of bacterial and viral infections in this activity, and demonstrate how immunization can effectively limit the spread of illness and contribute to overall community safety by creating an informational pamphlet. Students will employ their understanding of ongoing healthcare issues including the spread of vaccine misinformation, and learn to critically analyze health claims using substantiated evidence.

Supplies You Will Need

  • Computer with internet access
  • White or color paper of your choice
  • Pencil
  • Coloring pencils/markers/gel pens
  • Ruler

Pre-Activity: What is a virus?

We bet you’ve already heard of the great debate around vaccines. These debates always get loads of controversial media attention, but what do some of these “buzz words” mean? Vaccines are mostly made to fight against the spread of viral disease, which are types of pathogens with their own genetic information. Many viruses act like robots, they look for people or animals that they can land and anchor to. Viral diseases can’t live on their own though. Instead diseases need to find and insert themselves into another living host to survive. The disease can hijack the cells of the living host, and force it to reproduce its genetic information until the host becomes very sick. Diseases like these can become contagious when they spread to other people in search of more living hosts. If a case of infections continues to spread without being stopped, it can soon become an epidemic or a pandemic; an outbreak of disease across a country or the globe at a specific time. During past pandemics, scientists work very hard to eradicate or intentionally eliminate infectious diseases from the world. Thanks to a worldwide vaccination campaign, Smallpox is so far the only virus that has been fully eradicated from the earth.  

What is a vaccine?

Vaccines are usually injections used to prevent bacterial or viral infections from using a person as a living host. First a patient is injected with a weakened or dead version of the virus so the patient’s white blood cells are triggered to create antibodies which fight the disease. If the patient comes close to the real virus after, their immune system can recognize the virus right away, and fight it off with the antibodies it made earlier so the patient doesn’t experience any symptoms of the virus. The point where a patient’s body has the ability to resist being re-infected is called immunity, and entire communities can protect themselves from the spread of infectious disease with herd immunity, where most of the population has been vaccinated to block the spread of a disease from person to person after they have become immune themselves.

Why is herd immunity important?

Herd immunity is a term many people have heard of before because it is very important for the health of each community, and especially for the health of immunocompromised people, who cannot get vaccines for a medical reason, or who’s immune system is too weak for the mild or dead versions of the disease in vaccine injections. Other people who rely on herd immunity to prevent the spread include people who are immunosuppressed from chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy drugs can destroy bone marrow which helps to make white blood cells; a key part of the immune system. Organ transplant patients, newborn babies, pregnant women and HIV survivors also have weakened immune systems. If you are protected, you are helping to protect your community!

Check out demonstration of herd immunity we made that shows why important:

Recap what you’ve learned!

Before making your informational pamphlet, click on the link below to watch a recap on vaccinations and herd immunity, and to watch a couple of videos on common vaccine myths and why people can sometimes become fearful of getting vaccinated.

“What is Herd Immunity?”:

Vaccine hesitancy; what is it?

“Well… if vaccines are proven to work, how come some people say they’re really dangerous?” you may ask. It’s true. In recent years, doctors have seen a rise in the spread of vaccine myths going around. As a result, the number of people who doubt the effectiveness of herd immunity and are afraid to get their vaccinations is on the rise.

Another public health issue that is just as important as infectious disease control is fighting the spread of vaccine myths. Most myths running rampant today try to explain big public health issues without scientific information and are almost always rooted in fear mistrust. Who isn’t at least a little cautious about topics like life threatening diseases? It can be really easy for those natural concerns to be twisted into misleading and inaccurate myths when you don’t know what to look out for.

How to spot a vaccine myth!

Certain vaccine myths have become extremely popular with widespread use of social media. Here are some current popular myths:

  • Vaccines cause autism.
    • Many studies since the 1998 study have disproven this.
    • The scientist who published this study broke many ethics codes, was motivated by financial gain, and lost his medical license for it!
  • The ingredients in vaccines are harmful.
    • The amount of these ingredients, including Mercury and Formaldehyde are way too low to be harmful to humans!
    • The CDC has actually found that the human body produces more formaldehyde itself than the amount in a typical vaccine.
  • Infant immune systems are too fragile for these many vaccines.
    • Babies are bombarded with unknown pathogens all day. A baby’s immune system is constantly creating disease fighting cells strong enough for a typical vaccine.
  • The rate of vaccination is already high, I don’t need it
    • What about herd immunity? Its others’ job to protect those who cannot be vaccinated!
  • The vaccine will infect me with the disease it’s trying to prevent
    • Vaccines trigger an immune response. They do not cause disease! The mild symptoms recipients experience is NOT the actual disease.

Tackling vaccine myths exercise:

look through the images of different billboards below. Each billboard is spreading at least one of the vaccine myths covered in Infection Inspection to its viewers. Pick 1 billboard that stands out most to you.   

Time to tackle these myths! Think about the wording and visual ques of your billboard, and use your answers to the following questions to help create ideas for your informational pamphlet later on.

Question 1) Which of the common vaccine myths covered does your billboard use to spread misinformation to its viewers? How does the text and visual information of the billboard help to spread this message?

Question 2) Why is the message of your billboard misleading or inaccurate?

Informational Pamphlet Activity

Pick 1 common vaccine myth to talk about in your informational pamphlet. Use the evidence in this lesson to…

1) explain what vaccines are

2) challenge the vaccine myth of your billboard

3) show how the vaccine can limit the spread of the infectious diseases on the 3 inside panels of your pamphlet. Bring out your inner artist and be creative with the front over of your pamphlet!

How to make your pamphlet:

1) Place your paper in a landscape position on a flat surface.

2) To fold your paper like a letter, use your ruler to divide the paper into equal thirds.

3) Fold the paper like a letter. Use the lines to guide where you will crease the page.

4) Once your paper is folded like a letter, arrange your pamphlet so that the top panel opens like a book.

5) Unfold your pamphlet, smooth it out and place it in the landscape position.

6) Gather all the information from the lesson that you will need to include in your pamphlet, and your answers to the vaccine myth billboard questions above.

7) Write your answer to 1) Explain what vaccines are on the 1st panel when you open your pamphlet.

8) Write your answer to 2) challenge the vaccine myth of your billboard on the 2nd panel.

9) Write your answer to 3) show how the vaccine can limit the spread of the infectious diseases  on the 3rd panel.

10) Write a fun and attention-grabbing name on your pamphlet’s front cover.

Time to decorate!

Use your coloring instruments to make your pamphlet cover and inside panels flashy and eye catching. You can even use some of the vaccine myth billboards as inspiration for the front over of your pamphlet.

Need some inspiration! Here are some historical examples!

Explore similar education activities, discover highlights of museum artefacts, and sign up for an onsite education program by clicking the link here!

About the Author

Meaghan McDougald

(Public Programs Assistant, Summer 2020)

Meaghan recently completed an undergraduate degree in history at Queen’s University, with plans to return to Queen’s in the fall to begin her Bachelor’s of Education! Her main areas of interest include the history of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and the history of psychiatric medicine. Meaghan’s experience of quarantine during the COVID19 pandemic has allowed her to expand her cooking skills, and discover the many hiking locations that Kingston and the surrounding region has to offer.

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