Influenza, also known as the flu, is a viral infection marked by fever, headaches, muscle aches and a cough. This year's flu season has hit the ground running, with many more cases reported much earlier in the season (which runs from November to March) than recent years. Learn more at this week's mix of sites, some created just for kids, and others for learners of all ages.
The influenza outbreak of 1918 killed over 600,000 Americans "until it disappeared as mysteriously as it had begun." Created as a companion site to the PBS film of the same name, it includes features not found in the movie, and a teachers guide. As you read through the material, contrast the ways in which the public health officials of 1918 tried to combat the spread of the infection ("chew food carefully and avoid tight clothes and shoes") with today's efforts.
"Microbes are the oldest form of life on Earth. Some types have existed for billions of years." This great multimedia site from American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) explains microbes and bacteria and the role they play in infection. My favorite clicks are the interactive games sprinkled throughout the site, and the chapter titled "How Lou Got the Flu." But the most important section is Prevention Convention, which includes ten tips for staying healthy. For a two-page color-it-yourself version of the tips, look for the Print & Color link at the bottom of the page.
In this special feature, CNN not only reports on the latest flu season news, but also provides a lot of educational material. Worthwhile sidebars include What is Influenza?, Widespread Activity Map, Flu Pandemics Throughout History, and How Flu Vaccines Work. "A new vaccine was licensed this year and is an alternative to the flu shot. FluMist, a nasal spray, contains weakened, altered live antibodies instead of dead ones and is inhaled instead of injected." For more details on this year's epidemic, follow the link to CDC Flu Season.
"The enemy sneaks up on you so quietly that you don't even know it's there. Then BAM! Before you know what hit you, influenza (say: in-floo-en-zah) has made you sick, sick, sick!" Written just for elementary-age kids, KidsHealth tells us what the flu is, how you get it, and what to do if you get it. Learn more by clicking on any of the hyperlinked words, such as virus or fever. Related topics, like Who Needs a Flu Shot?, can be found on the orange More Articles Like This tab.
For high-school students and adults, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) presents a rigorous look at influenza. The Influenza Virus chapter includes fascinating information on how viruses are named, a cool schematic, and an explanation of how viruses are tracked worldwide. For those writing school reports, the site includes an extensive link section (click on More Information.) The entire document is also available as a PDF download, making it easy to print or distribute electronically.