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Epidemics - the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases

Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Influenza, Measles - we’re in a constant battle against infectious diseases. This is a course about the dynamics of such diseases - how they emerge, how they spread around the globe, and how they can best be controlled.

About the Course

Not so long ago, it was almost guaranteed that you would die of an infectious disease. In fact, had you been born just 150 years ago, your chances of dying of an infectious disease before you've reached the tender age of 5 would have been extremely high. 
 
Since then, science has come a long way in understanding infectious diseases - what they are, how they spread, and how they can be prevented. But diseases like HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis, or the flu are still major killers worldwide, and novel emerging diseases are a constant threat to public health. In addition, the bugs are evolving. Antibiotics, our most potent weapon against bacterial infections, are losing their power because the bacteria are becoming resistant. In this course, we'll explore the major themes of infectious diseases dynamics.

After we’ve covered the basics, we'll be looking at the dynamics of the flu, and why we're worried about flu pandemics. We'll be looking at the dynamics of childhood diseases such as measles and whooping cough, which were once considered almost eradicated, but are now making a comeback. We'll explore Malaria, and use it as a case study of the evolution of drug resistance. We'll even be looking at social networks - how diseases can spread from you to your friends to your friends' friends, and so on. And of course we’ll be talking about vaccination too. We’ll also be talking about how mobile phones, social media and crowdsourcing are revolutionizing disease surveillance, giving rise to a new field of digital epidemiology. And yes, we will be talking about Zombies - not human zombies, but zombie ants whose brains are hijacked by an infectious fungus. 

We're looking forward to having you join us for an exciting course!

Course Syllabus

This course will cover key concepts that relate to the emergence, the spread, and the control of infectious disease epidemics.

We'll cover various broad topics, including:

  • The basics: history of infectious diseases, basic concepts of disease dynamics, parasite diversity, evolution & ecology of infectious diseases
  • Emergence of diseases: The basic reproductive number, critical community size, epidemic curve, zoonoses, spill over, human / wildlife interface, climate change, hot zones, pathology
  • Spread of diseases: transmission types (droplets, vectors, sex), superspreading, diffusion, social networks, nosomical transmission, manipulation of behavior
  • Control of diseases: drug resistance, vaccination, herd immunity, quarantines, antibiotics, antivirals, health communication, ethical challenges of disease control
  • The future of infectious diseases: Evolution of virulence, emergence of drug resistance, eradication of diseases, medicine & evolution, crop diseases & food security, digital epidemiology

Recommended Background

No background is required; all are welcome.

Course Format

This course will consist primarily of video lecture and animations for the majority of the instruction.  To enhance the learning experience there will be a massive virtual simulation of an epidemic unfolding during the course.

FAQ

Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a statement of accomplishment signed by the instructors.

What resources will I need for this class?
For this course, all you need is an Internet connection and the time to watch lectures.

What will I learn if I take this class?
You’ll learn how epidemics unfold - how they emerge, how they spread, and what we can do to stop them. Along the way, you'll learn some basic scientific concepts about infectious disease dynamics.