Leadership Profile

What's Happening at Cedar Crest College

Global Diseases Students Fight Mock “Campus Outbreak”

Students in Professor Alan Hale’s Bio 216 Outbreak Investigations: Case Studies in Epidemiology class participated in a five-week project beginning Oct. 31, in which they were presented with details of a fictional “campus outbreak.”

Here was the original challenge provided to Hale’s students:

Late Wednesday morning on October 26, 2011, Olga Cauble began experiencing a fever, headache and overall weakness. Knowing that rest is often helpful when ill, she went to bed in her dorm room. By Saturday she was dead. On Thursday, October 27 another student within Steinbright (Hall) developed a fever and other symptoms experienced by Olga. Residing in STE 310, just down the hall from where Olga had hung her hat, she too decided to sleep it off. By Saturday she was feeling so ill that she went to the hospital. Within one day she went into shock and died. A new shipment of flu vaccine is due on campus on October 31. All students, staff and faculty will be highly encouraged to head to Health Services for a flu shot; the 2011/2012 flu shot protects against H1N1-like, H3N2-like and B-Brisbane-like influenza viruses. Halloween will also be special because the “EIS” (Epidemic Intelligence Service) teams will arrive on campus to begin their outbreak investigations.

Shannon Ronca
Shannon Ronca
In the Bio 216 course, students learned how to investigate disease outbreaks and ultimately work to minimize the spread and impact of the diseases. Hale’s students served as members of the EIS teams studying the outbreak, similar to the type of investigations done in such movies as Outbreak and Contagion. Ninety members of the campus community participated in the project as investigators, outbreak victims, etc., including many Bio 121 Principles of Biology students.

“Anyone could pick up a book and learn about skydiving, but they’ll never know what it’s really like until they’re falling toward the earth at over 90 mph. The same is true with investigating disease outbreaks,” said Hale, who also directs the global diseases program on campus. “In class, we discussed 18 separate investigations conducted by the CDC. Nevertheless, the students never fully appreciated the demands of an investigation or the value of working with others until they conducted their own investigation, the ‘Campus Outbreak.’ Our students did a wonderful job.”

Kathaleen Deane
Kathaleen Deane
On a related matter, two of the students within the course and involved in the “Campus Outbreak” are heading to foreign countries over winter break: Senior Shannon Ronca will visit Ghana and senior Kathaleen Deane will travel to Belize. A third, sophomore Samantha Korpics, will be going to the Amazon Rainforest in August and a fourth, senior Samantha Huey, will be spending time in either France or South Korea this summer.

What they learned in the course will help them understand and observe the different cultures, said Hale. All four have declared the minor in Global Diseases and will have the responsibility of proposing a plan to improve the health conditions within their respective countries as part of their requirements to complete the minor.