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Lessons Learned in 1918 Pandemic Flu

East Baltimore
4th Term
Environmental Health and Engineering
Academic Year
2023 - 2024
Instruction Method
Class Time(s)
Friday, 10:30 - 11:20am
Auditors Allowed
Yes, with instructor consent
Available to Undergraduate
Grading Restriction
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor(s)
Contact Name
Frequency Schedule
Every Year
Next Offered
2024 - 2025
The influenza pandemic of 1918 infected a third of the world’s population, killed 50-100 million people, and changed the course of history. Though William H. Welch, the first dean of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine was known for being unflappable in the face of infectious disease, this “new and terrible plague” pushed the limits of scientific comprehension, all in the backdrop of the devastating final days of WWI. One hundred years later, we can look back to ask, what happened during this epidemic? Could it happen again? How are we more prepared to respond to an influenza pandemic, now—and where would we continue to fall short?
Prepares students to examine the complex history surrounding the 1918 influenza pandemic, the public health response at that time, and compare to preparedness, today. Acquaints students with the realities of mass vaccination and medical countermeasure development. Discusses topical issues related to influenza preparedness, including an examination of what happened in the 1977 reemergence of H1N1 influenza, the gain of function influenza experiments and other controversial influenza research, and the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions. Encourages application of critical thinking skills through class discussions and written assignments.
Learning Objectives
Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe the historical, public health, and statistical features of the 1918 influenza pandemic
  2. Describe current efforts towards influenza preparedness
  3. Engage in professional written and oral communications with experts to elicit useful information
  4. Link possible policy options to current influenza threats and public health preparedness
  5. Describe the role scientists from Johns Hopkins University played in changing our approach to infectious diseases
  6. Explain the social, political and economic determinants of health and how they contribute to population health and health inequities.
Methods of Assessment
This course is evaluated as follows:
  • 10% Participation
  • 50% In-class Exercises
  • 40% Quizzes
Special Comments

As part of this course, students will be expected to craft a professional email to a current professional who might have some relevant responsibility in the event of a modern pandemic influenza (for example, scientist, public health official, mortuary services). They will send that email, schedule an interview, develop interview questions, conduct and write up the interview, and submit their report. This assignment will aim to teach professional skills as well as increase knowledge of important public health roles.