A Tale of Two Viruses
Department of Biology, Health Promotion, and Health Care Management
St. Francis College
In this PowerPoint-driven case study, students compare and contrast poliovirus and its effects with SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. Before the class meeting, students watch a set of videos and read two research papers. In class, the presentation begins with the story of the author’s grandmother who had polio, which personalizes the fear experienced during a pandemic. Guided by “clicker” questions throughout, students learn about poliovirus, its etiology, transmission, the iron lung, as well as the two types of polio vaccines and how they differ. The second part of the presentation focuses on SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. After learning the basics of this virus and disease, students look at data in two sets of patient cases. The first is about a 50-year-old man in Wuhan, China, who eventually succumbed to the disease; the second concerns the first person-to-person documented case of COVID-19 in China. The presentation concludes with students filling out tables to compare and contrast the two viruses. Originally designed for a second-semester general biology course, the case could also be used in anatomy and physiology, epidemiology, or genetics courses.
- Define a hypothesis.
- Compare and contrast two different viruses and their infections that have caused pandemics.
- Understand that different types of viruses can cause different types of problems.
- Appreciate the role that genetics has in causing variation in people, which leads to different susceptibilities to disease.
- Understand that politics and funding play a role in public health decisions when searching for vaccines and managing disease.
- Analyze data from the cases and draw evidence-based conclusions.
- Realize that there is still much to learn about poliovirus and its eradication and the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19.
KeywordsCOVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; virus; polio; poliomyelitis; ventilator; iron lung; genetics; epidemic; pandemic; Wuhan; viremia; vaccine; transmission; Salk; Sabine; agammaglobinemia
Topical AreasHistory of science, Policy issues
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, General public & informal education, Continuing education
FormatPDF, PowerPoint, Word
Type / MethodsClicker, Directed, Flipped, Journal Article
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Cell Biology | Epidemiology | Genetics / Heredity | Public Health | Science (General) |
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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.
- The Polio Crusade—American Experience (PBS)
A documentary that “interweaves the personal accounts of polio survivors with the story of an ardent crusader who tirelessly fought on their behalf while scientists raced to eradicate this dreaded disease.” Produced by American Experience, 2018, 52:10 min.
- A Paralyzing Fear: The Story of Polio in America
A history of polio in America including a look at racism and health disparities. Produced by Center for History in the Media, George Washington University, 1998, 1hr 30 min.
- Poliomyelitis—Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Pathology
A good whiteboard rendition of the poliovirus and its etiology. Produced by Osmosis, 2018, 10:13 min.
- COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 19) April Update—Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Pathology
A good whiteboard rendition of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. Produced by Osmosis, 2020, 19:02 min.
- The Iron Lung and Polio
An excellent depiction of the iron lung and how it worked mechanically by negative pressure to help people (mostly children) breathe. Produced by OPENPediatrics, by Mark Rockoff, 2016, 8:35 min.