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Infectious disease and public health

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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

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

You’ll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) and broadband internet access. Any macOS is unsuitable with this module.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook; however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

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 2021.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2023.

Course work includes:

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

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