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Infectious disease and public health

Infectious disease affects all our lives to varying degrees, often making front-page news: ‘New resistant strain of TB’, ‘Will bird flu cross over to humans?’ ‘Hospital infections reach epidemic proportions’, etc. This module approaches infectious disease from several perspectives – exploring the underlying biology, epidemiology, ecology and evolution of pathogens in relation to the extraordinary immune defences of their human hosts. You will learn how infections are diagnosed, how to study changes in the incidence of diseases and investigate strategies for treatment and control through detailed case studies. You will also have the chance to study a disease or disease-related topic in detail.

What you will study

Why have diseases such as AIDS spread so rapidly through large areas of the world? Why are some populations so badly affected? How have diseases such as smallpox and polio been controlled? What are the reasons for the emergence of new infectious diseases?

Infectious disease and public health is an exciting module that shows how the causes and control of diseases can be understood only by reference to a range of biological information in the appropriate social context. It aims to:

  • present a multidisciplinary approach to the study of infectious disease
  • illustrate this approach through case studies of a range of infectious diseases
  • develop appropriate skills in reading and abstracting the literature and communicating the module themes coherently and from a multidisciplinary perspective.

By the end of the module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate a broad understanding of the range of infectious diseases and their causative agents
  • demonstrate a broad understanding of the range of techniques used to diagnose infections
  • describe biological interactions between hosts and pathogens during an infection, and their evolution over time
  • give examples of the influence of social organisation, culture and economic development on the distribution of infectious disease
  • demonstrate the ability to interpret basic epidemiological data on infectious disease outbreaks
  • discuss strategies to prevent or reduce the impact of infectious diseases, commenting on their strengths and limitations
  • use a variety of methods, including electronic search tools, to access both primary and secondary scientific literature and abstract relevant information for a stated purpose
  • research and produce an extended piece of written work summarising historical and contemporary aspects of a chosen infectious disease (or diseases) including issues of treatment and control.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU.

It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle the module, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully. The Science Faculty has produced a booklet  Are you ready for SK320? to help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the module or whether you need a little extra preparation. 

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

A dedicated module website, online tutorials and forums. All study materials (introduction and guide, three study blocks, case studies, digital microscope, activities and glossary, etc.) and assignment materials are delivered online. There are no printed books.

You will need

This module is delivered online via a module website, so you will need a computer with internet access throughout to read the online text, engage with the online activities and student forums, to keep up to date with module news items and to download other study materials, including the module assignments.

You may need to draw diagrams or to annotate by hand diagrams that you download, and then use either a scanner or a digital camera to produce files of these diagrams for inclusion in your assessment.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided from a hardware device e.g. DVD drive or USB stick or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a desktop or laptop computer with Windows 7 or higher.

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Your tutor will also offer support through email and online forum discussions.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying SK320 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Infectious disease and public health (SK320) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2021.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
2 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
Examination
No residential school

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