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Lesson 2: Does Hand Washing Affect the Spread of Influenza?

One of the major guidelines for reducing the spread of diseases is to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. The flu virus is highly contagious. Can hand washing reduce the number of infections due to influenza? Lather up and start your investigation.

Here are some definitions to help you in your investigation.

Genes - the material inside cells that results in various traits

Virus - a small collection of material that make up genes that can infect and damage cells

Influenza - a virus that attacks the lungs, throat, and nose

Contagious - a disease that can easily spread among people

Epidemic - a disease that is widespread

Pandemic - a disease that has spread worldwide

Linear growth - growing by the same amount each time

Exponential growth - growing by doubling each time

Doing the Science

  1. Start the Flu Transmission Simulation by clicking on the “Simulation” tab.
  2. Click on the “None” button under the Factor menu on the left-bottom of the screen.
  3. Click on the “Run” button at the bottom center of the screen.
  4. Note the Progress bar, which shows time running for a six-week period.
  5. Click on the “1” icon on the Progress bar.
  6. Count and record in Table 3 the number of infected students at the end of the first week of the flu outbreak.
  7. Click on the “2” icon on the Progress bar.
  8. Count and record in Table 3 the number of infected students at the end of the second week of the flu outbreak.
  9. Repeat this process until you have counted and recorded data for all six weeks.
  10. Click on the “Hand Washing” button under the Factor menu on the left-bottom of the screen.
  11. Repeat steps 3 - 9 only enter your data in Table 4.

Do You Understand?

  1. As time progressed, how did the number of students who were infected by the flu change when the None factor was selected?


  2. Is the spread of flu when the None factor was selected more like linear growth or exponential growth? Please support your response with evidence.


  3. As time progressed, how did the number of students who were infected by the flu change when the Hand Washing factor was selected?


  4. Is the spread of flu when the Hand Washing factor was selected more like linear growth or exponential growth? Please support your response with evidence.


  5. How did hand washing affect the spread of the flu?


  6. Coronavirus is another virus that spreads in a similar way as the flu. Why do experts say people should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds to avoid a coronavirus infection?