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USDA teaching resource: Understanding Avian Influenza.

Educators nationwide now have an additional information resource for teaching high school biology students about avian influenza, specifically the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus. The Understanding Avian Influenza lesson plan and instructor's guide are offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service. The lesson explains the many reasons why students should know about the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus that currently is spreading overseas and what it would mean if the virus is detected in the United States.

Understanding Avian Influenza is available through Agriculture in the Classroom, a grassroots program coordinated by USDA. The goal of the program is to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in the economy and society. The program is carried out in each state, according to state needs and interests, by individuals representing farm organizations, agribusiness, education, and government.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza strain has infected thousands of domestic and wild bird populations in more than 50 countries. It is one of the few avian-influenza viruses to have crossed the species barrier to infect humans, and it is the most deadly of those that have crossed the barrier. Most cases of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian-influenza infection in humans have resulted from contact with infected poultry or surfaces contaminated with secretions or excretions from infected birds.

To help students to a realistic understanding of the threats posed by the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus, the lesson plan is divided into three stages. The first stage covers the spread of the virus between the year 1996, when it first appeared, and the year 2004. The second and third stages focus on the continued spread and evolution of highly pathogenic H5N1 during 2005 and 2006. Each timeframe is subdivided into three short sections: Background, Brief History, and Things to Think About. Background sections include scientific information about avian influenza relevant to the development of the disease. The Brief History sections lay out what was known about highly pathogenic avian-influenza H5N1 during the given time period, and the Things to Think About sections have additional information, activities, and questions for discussion so that students can make their own determination about the seriousness of the virus.

The Understanding Avian Influenza lesson plan and instructor's guide are available at Ag in the Classroom ( and at CS-REES ( Information about USDA's avian-influenza efforts can be found at and on the U.S. Government Web site on avian influenza and human pandemic preparedness at
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Title Annotation:Products & Services
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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