Disease Disaster

A WebQuest for 7th Grade (Life Science)

Designed by Mrs. Wagner-West


Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits | Teacher Page


In Deeville, Oregon, people are getting sick.  Hospitals are filling up with patients who all have very similar symptoms.  They are experiencing enlarged and tender lymph nodes, fever, chills, and heat exhaustion.  Other patients exhibit these symptoms, but also have abdominal pain, cough, and have difficulty breathing.  Physicians are confused; some of these patients are family members and others are complete strangers.  The symptoms seem as if they are connected but a pattern is not immediately seen.  If this is an epidemic, though, the doctors need to know what it is and how to treat it immediately.... otherwise, it could mean the end of Deeville.


It is your team's job as Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers to investigate and identify this "outbreak", determine the causes of the epidemic and how it is transmitted, and design a presentation to give to the physicians regarding the history of this particular disease.  The presentation should also include preventative measures for the general public and the treatment options available for these patients.  After a group decision on the identity of this disease, each team member will have one specialized role in addition to the final group presentation.

1.   As a registered nurse (R.N.) with a Master's degree in Public Health, you will determine the causes of the epidemic.  What is the culprit behind the disease?  Is it a bacteria? A virus? A fungus? A parasite?  What does it look like?  Give support for why it is likely that the disease is caused by your findings.

2.   Your job as the Veterinarian (DVM) is to investigate how the disease is transmitted, or infects other people.  Is it air-borne or blood-borne?  Are animals involved or does the disease move person-to-person?  Does it require a certain temperature?  How close do the people have to be to become infected?  Give support.

3.   Epidemiology, the study of diseases, has always been an interest of yours through doctoral school.  That is why you got your PhD in it!  It is your job as the disease historian to study how the disease has progressed through the years.  When was it first recognized?  How did they treat it then?  Are there pictures or documents from the past that can help find a cure or treatment today?

4.   Since preventative measures and treatment are your strong suit as a M.D., you will discover how the disease is treated now and if there is a cure.  Is there anything people can do to ensure that they do not become infected?  Are there medications to take or surgery to have done?  Your findings are crucial to the future of this disease and to the public.

The final group presentation will be in a format of your choice.  You may create a poster showing each of the elements of this outbreak, pamphlets, a PowerPoint presentation, or you may create your own design on teacher approval.  Each presentation will be given in front of the class as a group and every person is responsible for knowing each of its parts.  One paper will be turned in for every group as a printed form of their presentation.


1.  You will be assigned to an investigative team of 4 students.

2.  After numbering off in class, each number will be assigned a role on the team.  The roles are 1) R.N. with Masters degree in Public Health; 2) DVM; 3) PhD; 4) MD.

3.  We will discuss what each of these roles requires you to research and investigate.

4.  After review of the WebQuest assignments, your team will have a meeting to talk about what the symptoms and description of the case could reveal about this mystery disease.

5.  As a team, decide what disease you believe may be taking its toll on Deeville.

6.  After disease identification, your team will begin work on your individual roles.

7.  Use research tools on the Web, in journals, and in books.

RNs:   Virtual Museum of Bacteria
           Hidden Killers: deadly viruses
           Fungal Infection
           Parasites of Public Health Concern

DVMs: *use the RN and MD websites for information on transmission

PhDs:   A Brief History of Infectious Disease  *check the article titles on the left of the page!
            Disease in History
            History of Vaccination
            Old Medical Terminology Dictionary    

MDs:    WebMD
            World Health Organization

8.  Regroup as an investigative team and discuss your findings.

9.  Determine your presentation format and get approval from Mrs. Wagner-West.


11.  As a group, work on your presentation and final paper.  Each person is responsible for writing their own section, but every team member is responsible for knowing the information found by their teammates.

12.  Have a FANTASTIC mock medical conference and HAVE FUN!


Each student will be given an individual grade based on their performance on their role specific tasks.  You will not be given a score for a section to which they were not assigned.  During the presentation, each student will answer questions from both their section and one other section from the group.  Your ability to answer the questions from your own and other section will determine your second individual score.  Group scores are based on the presentation of the final display and paper.  Using this rubric, each student will receive two individual scores and two group scores.











Identify and determine the causes of the disease. Give support for conclusions and include visual representations.
(individual grade - RN)


Disease name is given with no support.  Causes are inaccurate and not supported. Disease name is given with minimal support.  Plausible identification of causes given with little or no support. Disease is identified and explanation is supported.  Plausible identification of causes given with accurate and descriptive support.  Good choice of visuals. Disease is identified with clear support and explanation is thorough.  Plausible identification of causes given with accurate and exemplary explanation.  Very clear and demonstrative visuals.


Determine the transmission of the disease and give support.
(individual grade - DVM)


Transmission description is inaccurate for identified disease and not supported. Transmission accurately described with minimal support. Transmission accurately described with founded support (3 reasons for identification) and good detail. Transmission clearly and accurately identified with in-depth explanations and support (4 or more reasons).


Describe the progression of the disease, treatment, and its social impact through history.  Include references.
(individual grade - PhD)


History of the disease incomplete or without detail.
History includes description of the disease and its treatment in the past but fails to discuss how it affected society.
Description is complete but with little or no visual representation/ documents or references.
Complete history of the disease including referenced documentation and discussion of how it affected and still affects society.


Determine the preventative measures available and treatment/cure for the disease and give support.
(individual grade - MD)


Preventative measures or treatment/cure given with no support. Preventative measures or treatment/cure described in little detail. Preventative measures and treatment/cure both described in detail. Preventative measures and treatment/cure both described in detail with supported research references.


Final presentation discussion.
(individual grade)


Student is able to answer questions from own section but not from others. Student is able to answer questions from other sections with guidance from teacher or peers. Student is able to answer questions from other sections without guidance. Student is able to answer questions from other sections in detail and without hesitance.


Final presentation display.
(group grade)


Display shows little effort or creativity and/or is missing parts. Display shows effort and has all sections included.
Display shows considerable effort and time, includes a sections' descriptions and support, and includes at least two visuals.
Display is very creative, includes detailed support and references in each section, and includes at least three visuals.


Final presentation paper.
(group grade)


Final paper is unorganized and/or is missing parts. Final paper is easy to follow, includes all sections, and has minor typographical errors. Final paper is organized well, descriptive in each section, and has minimal or no typographical errors. Final paper shows complete comprehension of each section in detail with very few or no errors.  It is organized clearly and includes references.


Through this WebQuest, library research, and group presentation, you have been exposed to the different levels of disease research, prevention/treatment, and societal impact of diseases.  Each of these steps are necessary to understand how microscopic entities can affect our lives.  You have also learned to search for information on the internet and in the library and connect to websites that are specifically concerned with public health.  The individual roles in the lesson also allowed you to investigate the many careers you may pursue that would be very useful in the fields of medicine and epidemiology.

A few things to think about:

*What steps would epidemiologists need to take if the disease has never been seen before?

*How could a new disease develop?  When is it considered a "new" disease?

*With the widespread availability of the internet, is self-diagnosis becoming more common?

*Why are certain areas of the world more likely to show higher rates of infection than others?

*How can this information assist in forensics, or solving police cases?

American Public Health Association

US Department of Health and Human Services

Medical Careers Video Library

Self-Care Flowcharts

Credits & References

Blood Morphology Background Picture

Web Design pages:

The WebQuest Page

Design Patterns

We all benefit by being generous with our work. Permission is hereby granted for other educators to copy this WebQuest, update or otherwise modify it, and post it elsewhere provided that the original author's name is retained along with a link back to the original URL of this WebQuest. On the line after the original author's name, you may add Modified by (your name) on (date). If you do modify it, please let me know and provide the new URL.

Last updated on December 13, 2003. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page