About this Course

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Approx. 15 hours to complete

Suggested: 20 hours of videos and quizzes...


Subtitles: English

Skills you will gain

BiologyMicrobiologyPublic HealthVaccine Development

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.

Approx. 15 hours to complete

Suggested: 20 hours of videos and quizzes...


Subtitles: English

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

1 hour to complete

Course Introduction

Welcome to Epidemics: the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases. This course will teach you about the variety of parasitic organisms that infect humans, animals, and plants, how these parasites spread through populations, and the various methods that we employ to control them....
3 readings
3 readings
Course Overview10m
Course Syllabus10m
Glossary of Terms10m
1 hour to complete


In the first module, you will learn about the organisms that can infect us and make us sick: pathogens. We will first take a look at the various types of pathogens that exist, and then learn about what it means to be infectious, and what it means to cause disease. After that, we will cover the various methods by which pathogens can transmit from one person to the next, thereby causing an epidemic. You will learn about the most important number in all of epidemiology, R0, and why this number is so important. Finally, we will learn that microorganisms are not always harmful, but can be beneficial to us as well....
7 videos (Total 40 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
7 videos
Micro and Macro Parasites5m
Infection and Disease6m
Transmission Types4m
Reproductive Number4m
Epidemic Curve6m
1 reading
Module Overview10m
1 practice exercise
Summative: Pathogens20m
1 hour to complete


The second module of the course covers host factors that determine the outcome of infection. We will first focus on host immunity and present both the general immune capabilities—the innate immune response—that are encoded in our genes and that provide the initial response to infection and the adaptive immune response, which arises from highly specialized cells that protect against a specific pathogen. You will then learn about the ways that pathogens circumvent these two types of immunity and consider other factors that can contribute to an individual becoming infected or diseased—including genetic factors, other microbes, and how social and emotional factors influence immunity. We will then consider how infection with a microorganism causes disease and how public health officials determine whether a disease outbreak is caused by an infectious organism....
7 videos (Total 41 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
7 videos
Types of Immunity: Adaptive Immune System5m
Immune Evasion6m
Other Determinants of Susceptibility6m
Social Influences on Immunity4m
Pathogens and Disease6m
Detecting an Infectious Disease Outbreak6m
1 reading
Module Overview: Hosts10m
1 practice exercise
Summative: Hosts20m
1 hour to complete

Basics of Ecology

The third module of the course covers ecological factors that influence the dynamic patterns of infectious disease. We will discuss the conditions under which a pathogen can drive its host to extinction. We will look at how the demography of the host may allow the pathogen to persist in some populations but not others. We will talk about how host and pathogen characteristics interact to shape different temporal patterns of disease incidence at the population level and discuss the ecological consequences of infecting more than one host species....
9 videos (Total 55 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
9 videos
Force of Infection5m
Flu 19185m
Host Diversity, Host Range3m
Critical Community Size8m
Pathogen-Microbiome Interactions8m
The 2014 Ebola Outbreak9m
1 reading
Module Overview: Basics of Ecology10m
1 practice exercise
Summative: Basics of Ecology20m
1 hour to complete


Where humans live and how they are connected to each other, have strong effects on how infectious diseases can spread. In this module, you will learn about some of the related key concepts of epidemiology. After looking at some fascinating history, we’ll learn about social networks as the ultimate “road map” on which diseases can travel and we’ll talk about how the structure of the network can influence disease dynamics. After that, we’ll cover three topics that all affect infectious disease epidemiology in dramatic ways: human transport systems, population density and so-called superspreaders - individuals who can spread a disease to dozens or even hundreds of other individuals. We’ll close by identifying what information is required for disease surveillance....
8 videos (Total 52 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
8 videos
Social Networks5m
Structure of Networks5m
Spatial Hetergeneity5m
Movement and Modern Transportation5m
Surveillance and Disclosure5m
Co-Infection Consequences10m
1 reading
Module Overview: Epidemiology10m
1 practice exercise
Summative: Epidemiology20m
1 hour to complete


In module 5 of the course, you will learn about vaccination, one of the most common approaches to the prevention of epidemics. We'll first put vaccination in the context of the many types of public health interventions that that can be used to prevent or treat disease. After that you will learn about the development of the first vaccine, how vaccines work to prevent infection, and the impact that vaccination has had on the prevention of disease worldwide. After that, you will learn about how vaccination can provide protection to everyone, even the unvaccinated, in the population through "herd immunity" and how we can use the structure of social networks within populations to more efficiently achieve this herd protection. Finally we'll learn about how individuals choices about whether or not to get vaccinated can lead to impacts across the whole of the population....
7 videos (Total 40 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
7 videos
Discovery of the First Vaccine3m
Global Impact of Vaccination6m
How Vaccination Works7m
Herd Immunity5m
Social Networks and Targeted Vaccination6m
Vaccination Refusal5m
1 reading
Module Overview: Vaccination10m
1 practice exercise
Summative: Vaccination20m
2 hours to complete

Control Mechanisms

In module 6 of the course, you will learn about mechanisms involved in controlling epidemics. In these lectures, we will discuss what control mechanisms are trying to do, such as breaking the chain of transmission, and many ways by which animals and humans attempt to achieve control. These means include pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions, appearing at individual or population levels. We will describe examples of great successes in eradication, and the reasons why control efforts fail....
10 videos (Total 63 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
10 videos
Social Challenges to Eradication4m
Non-pharmaceutical Interventions: Animals5m
Non-pharmaceutical Interventions: Humans 14m
Non-pharmaceutical Interventions: Humans 27m
Behavioral Avoidance6m
Controlling the Vector8m
Consequences of Control7m
Vaccination Ethics7m
New Approaches to an Old Infection5m
1 reading
Module Objectives: Control Mechanisms10m
1 practice exercise
Summative: Control Mechanisms20m
1 hour to complete


In module 7 of the course, we’ll look at so-called emerging infectious diseases. These are diseases that are causing new problems. They include infectious agents that are new to humanity, but also infectious agents that were once controlled and are now returning, particularly those that are evolving around formerly very effective public health tools like drugs and vaccines. This means much of the week involves a discussion of evolution. We will look at these emerging diseases and ask, where do they come from and what can be done about them? You will learn about new ideas for managing evolution, and some of the societal challenges involved. We will also look at the related question of how some diseases evolve to be nicer or nastier to their hosts....
7 videos (Total 49 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
7 videos
Evolution General5m
Antibiotic and Drug Resistance5m
Management of Resistance8m
Behavioral And Economic Impact5m
Evolution of Virulence8m
1 reading
Module Overview: Emergence10m
1 practice exercise
Summative: Emergence20m
1 hour to complete

Global Health

In this final module we explore the global context of epidemics. The world is rapidly changing with the global population increasing and the speed of travel and extent of globalization piling on the pressure of infectious diseases. In this week we set out first to explore a textbook example of disease shaped by the conditions presented by modern living: the disease SARS. We will see how high density living in cities coupled with links to wildlife diseases through markets can create a pandemic. We then explore traditional methods of disease surveillance and then more recent ones afforded to us by the web and networks made possible through google, twitter and other social media. Important to this global view is human behavior, our evolving culture and health. We will also consider emerging disease and the global pattern of diseases across our recent history and how from our earliest beginnings of global travellers we have affected the spread of diseases. Finally, we discuss disease of our food plants and how models of disease spread are developed to promote better global health. As a postscript to the course we ask the questions, so beloved of modern media, could we become zombies?...
9 videos (Total 55 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
9 videos
Disease Surveillance - Classical7m
Disease Surveillance - Digital5m
Culture and Health5m
Emerging Disease Issues7m
Crop Diseases and Food Security5m
Global Pattern of Parasite Biodiversity4m
Models of Infectious Diseases7m
1 reading
Module Overview: Global Health10m
1 practice exercise
Summative: Global Health20m
4 hours to complete

Ask Us Anything Videos

The videos accessible in this module are responses to questions that have been posed in previous sessions of this course. We invite you to look around here as an additional resource to answer questions you might have yourself or explore topics that pique your interest. ...
36 videos (Total 261 min)
36 videos
What Does It Mean to Be Infectious?4m
What is the Impact of Prior Infections on Susceptibility to New Pathogens?5m
What Ended the Plague? What Can We Learn About Pandemics?5m
Can Behavior Contribute to Susceptibility?6m
Marilyn Roosinck and What’s Different about Plant Epidemiology?8m
Can Plants be Vectors of Disease?4m
What are Other Determinants of Susceptibility?5m
Can Pathogens Change Host Function?5m
Immune System Conflict6m
Eric Harvill and What is the Whole Micro-Biome, Pro-Biotic, Good Bacteria Thing?6m
Why Can't Our Antibodies Mutate Like Antigens?4m
How Does Microbiome Exchange Therapy Work?8m
What are the Best Strategies to Combat Multi-Species Infections?7m
How Relevant is the Concept of Critical Community Size?7m
Isabella Catadori and the Translation of Her Lab Work into the Field5m
Examples of Co-Infections and How They Change Epidemiology of Human Infections6m
Super-Shedders v. Super Spreaders and the Pareto Principle6m
The Role of Social Media in Epidemiology and how Information is Disseminated8m
Dr. Vivek Kapur and What Do We Need to Know about Development and Implementation of New Vaccines?9m
Why Don't We Have Vaccines for Everything?8m
Why Don't We Use Targeted Vaccinations?7m
What Are the Benefits of So-Called Gain-of-Function Experiments?11m
Dr. Moriah Szpara and How/Why do viruses like Varicella and Herpes Re-activate Themselves?7m
What are the Challenges to the Eradication of Pathogens and Setting Eradication as a Goal?6m
How Does Stress Affect Susceptibility and the Expression of Disease?6m
Has there been a Collective Change in Human Behavior in Response to Sexually Transmitted Diseases?9m
What can we do to minimize selection for resistance in vectors?8m
Genetic engineering of vectors? pt.17m
Genetic engineering of vectors? pt.27m
What is the role of climate change in disease emergence?8m
What can we learn from antibiotic and vaccine use in agriculture? 7m
Dr. Craig Cameron and What do We Mean by 'Antivirals?'8m
What is it About Polio?9m
What About the One Health Concept?7m
What is the Next Big Thing?8m
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Top Reviews

By DBApr 23rd 2016

Can't fault this course at all and nor would I want to. Very interesting, brilliantly presented and the range of experts really enhanced it. It was engaging and made me keen to find out more.

By DJMay 13th 2017

It is a wonderful course , I have gain and updated my Knowledge in the area of Epidemics and Infectious Disease, Thanks to the Course organizers and most effective presentations . Dr Shivaji



Dr. Ottar N. Bjornstad

Professor of Entomology and Biology
Department of Biology

Dr. Rachel A. Smith

Associate Professor
Department of Communication Arts & Sciences and Human Development & Family Studies

Dr. Mary L. Poss

Professor of Biology
Department of Biology

Dr. David P. Hughes

Assistant Professor of Entomology and Biology
Department of Biology

Dr. Peter Hudson

Willaman Professor of Biology
Department of Biology

Dr. Matthew Ferrari

Assistant Professor of Biology
Department of Biology

Dr. Andrew Read

Alumni Professor in the Biological Sciences, and Professor of Entomology
Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics

Dr. Marcel Salathé

Assistant Professor of Biology
Department of Biology

About The Pennsylvania State University

Founded in 1855 as Pennsylvania's only land-grant university, The Pennsylvania State University combines academic rigor with a vibrant campus life. A nationally recognized Research-I institution, Penn State teaches students to be leaders with a global perspective. Supporting not only the citizens of our Commonwealth, Penn State engages in collaborative activities with industrial, educational, and agricultural partners in the United States and abroad to generate, disseminate, integrate, and apply knowledge that is valuable to society....

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