Many questions are beginning to emerge as we start to absorb the scale of the Coronavirus outbreak. It’s clearly much bigger than many of us imagined, and certainly not just something that is limited to China – a naive assumption you may remember from January.
As the pressure builds on our health systems, those who we trust to protect us have come under scrutiny.
Government leaders have been criticised for their late actions. The value of international bodies like the WHO is doubted. And as survival figures vary from country-to-country and state-to-state even the techniques of frontline health workers are questioned.
It gives us a lot to be unsure about:
Why do some countries have so few cases?
Why does the death rate in developed countries vary so wildly?
And what even counts as a Coronavirus case?
Just last week we heard that China’s figures had been skewed by the exclusion of asymptomatic cases in the total figure.
Even when putting bias and selective reporting aside, many of us now realise that our personal knowledge of how diseases work and spread is full of gaps. The articles we read and the messages in the group chats we browse are not likely to be helping. In fact, it may be contributing to more confusion.
Masks don’t work, or do they?
Two metres is enough, or not enough?
Should borders be closed, or not?
It’s within these gaps of knowledge that conspiracy theories and misinformation can thrive. Attacking our ability to make clear, well-informed decisions – much like a virus.
One reason why we have so much doubt and false information circulating could be because most of us know so little about epidemiology – the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases.
Despite the fact that epidemics occur so often. For most people, epidemiology is new concept.
Luckily, despite it’s academic connotations, it’s something that we can all learn about. And you can do so, online, for free.
So if you are feeling out the loop maybe give one of the free online courses that teach us about diseases, and how they spread a go.
We’ve assembled three options, selected because of the high quality of their source material. All the courses listed below come from leading professors of epidemiology & general health or from international organisations like the WHO.
A well-researched epidemiology 101
Learn about identifying, measuring and controlling epidemics in this bitesize introductory course.
John Hopkins University
- A short 3-5 hour course.
- Modules are spread over two weeks, but you can learn as and when you want.
- The course is presented in English, with the option of subtitles in Spanish (ES).
What you’ll learn about:
- How do we identify and measure outbreaks like Covid-19?
- Identifying, classifying and tracking outbreaks
- Health surveillance systems, domestic and international.
- Getting accurate measurements for Covid19 (cases, deaths)
- Measuring the Impact of Infections Like COVID-19
- Measures of Transmissibility
- Implications of control.
- Discussion with experts on the impact of social distancing, etc.
An in-depth exploration of epidemiology specifically concerning Covid19
Understand the emergence of COVID-19 and how we respond to it going forward.
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
- A 10-12 hour course.
- Content is split into three week long modules, but you can access content as you wish.
- You can access the first version now. They will be running a guided version with updated information starting on the 25th May.
- The course is presented in English, with translations provided in Chinese, Spanish (ES), Portuguese (BR), French and Italian.
What you’ll learn:
- How COVID-19 emerged and was identified
- How COVID-19 spreads
- Public health measures for COVID-19 worldwide
- What is needed to address COVID-19 going forward
Practical application of epidemiology management
Donald Trump might not be a fan of these courses. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t take a look.
The World Health Organisation (WHO)
- Mixture of short, online courses.
- Designed for practicing healthcare professionals, national border and security workers and policy-makers. Ideal for a particularly curious learner.
- Full of practical advice.
What you’ll learn about:
- A practical look at methods for the detection, prevention, response and control of emerging respiratory viruses.
- The advice given to member nations for controlling their entry points (borders).
- Infection prevention and control for Novel Coronavirus (Covid19)
- Planning country preparedness and response.
Start one today, and with just a few hours commitment you can be more knowledgeable about epidemics like Coronavirus.
Thank you to the people and organisations who have worked to put this knowledge online for free. And in such a short space of time.