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The Unfortunate Nurse

A Case Study of Dengue Fever and Social Policy


Karen M. Aguirre
Department of Biology
Coastal Carolina University


Dengue (pronounced "deng-ee") is a viral disease transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, usually Aedes aegypti. It is common in tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia, India, South and Central America, and Mexico. There is concern that as tourism and modern travel shrink the planet to create a "global village," dengue could emerge as a major health problem and societal burden. This case study introduces students to "emerging pathogens" and other concepts in parasitology, immunology, epidemiology, and public policy by examining an actual incident in which dengue virus was transmitted by an accidental needlestick. Several activities are involved, including analysis of primary literature, in-class reading of scripted dialogue, creation of PowerPoint presentations, and design of short educational brochures on dengue. Students also learn about two modern techniques widely used in medical and research settings (i.e., EIA and Taqman RT-PCR). The case is suitable for general education biology, cell biology, microbiology, immunology, and science and public policy courses.


  • Read and analyze a scientific paper, identifying and researching unknown terminology.
  • Become familiar with the idea of nosocomial infection.
  • Become familiar with the idea of emerging pathogens.
  • Explore the complex virus/mosquito vector/host infection strategy of dengue virus.
  • Become familiar with the following techniques: EIA (ELISA), differential cell counts, and RT-PCR.
  • Explore the idea of “agenda” in science and ethics and politics in public policy-making.


Dengue virus; breakbone disease; mosquito vector; Aedes aegypti; nosocomial infection; needlestick; emerging pathogens; immigration and disease; enzyme-linked-immunoabsorbent assay; EIA, ELISA, RT-PCR

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Journal Article, Role-Play, Student Presentations



Subject Headings

Public Health  |   Nursing  |   Epidemiology  |   Microbiology  |   Cell Biology  |   Biology (General)  |  

Date Posted


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Sue Hutchins
Biology Department
Itasca Community College
Grand Rapids, MN
In the table of blood work, I think you should have microliters, not milliliters. The original paper has microliters.