The exhibition is divided into the following sections:
1. The Prologue
This introduction to the exhibition includes a panel and a short video
that set the stage for the stories and concepts to come. The importance
of understanding the natural history of infectious disease and learning
how different cultures view and respond to illness are two of the main
2. Understanding Ecology
Hantavirus is an excellent example of how ecological change plays a role
in outbreaks of infectious disease. In 1993, an increase in annual
rainfall and a subsequent rise in the population of deer mice in the
southwestern United States caused a hantavirus outbreak.
The mice carry the virus and pass it to humans in aerosol form through
their droppings. You'll see a diorama of a tool shed with a figure
and several objects in it. How can people stop hantavirus from spreading?
Watch the three-minute video about the ecology surrounding the outbreak.
3. Ecological Change and Evolution
This section highlights malaria in order to illustrate the struggle between
humans and microbes as they evolve and adapt to survive. This competition
is a constant dynamic in the world of infectious disease. Since microbes
evolve much more rapidly than humans do, we need to develop ways to
prevent infection. In the case of malaria, we can use plant extracts
to prevent parasite infection, and wear protective clothing and use
mosquito nets to avoid mosquito bites.
In places where malaria has been a problem for many years, some people
have inherited genetic traits that make them less susceptible to the
disease. Unfortunately, this genetic change can also cause another disease,
sickle cell anemia.
As you enter this section, an array of colorful, three-dimensional models
shows the astounding diversity of microbial life. Microbes are divided
into five types: viruses, bacteria,
protozoa, fungi, and helminths
(worms). Students can learn about the different characteristics of
these five types of microorganisms. They will also gain a better understanding
of the natural history of microbes, and the ways in which many of them
5. The Study of Microbes
This section explains how the invention of the microscope eventually
led to the discovery that microbes cause disease. A microscope is simply
a device with one or more lenses that magnifies an object so it can
be seen more clearly. In 1674, Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek was the first
person to see a living microbe, using a magnifying glass. It wasnąt
until about 200 years later that another scientist, Louis Pasteur,
realized that microbes could also be responsible for diseases.
Scientists in this century continue to make important discoveries about
microbes and disease. Electron microscopes allow scientists to magnify
objects hundreds of thousands of times. Other techniques allow them to
take microbes apart to understand their inner workings, and the newest
methods involve examining the genetic sequence of microbes. The end of
this section examines some of the other challenges in controlling infectious
diseases, such as poverty, war, and resistance to antibiotics.
where, and when do humans and microbes meet? This section shows several
ways that microbes can enter the human body. What are the points of entry?
It also shows ways the body protects itself. What are the roles of macrophages, T
cells, B cells, and
memory cells? Ask students to identify the parts of the body that play
a role in defense. Discover how antibiotics and medicines work. What
is the purpose of a vaccine?
There are two dioramas in this section -- one shows HIV taking hold
of a human T cell, and the other shows E. coli 0157:H7 in the
intestines. What is happening between the microbes and the body defenses
in these dioramas? There are also interactives here, including a two-player
game in which one person plays the invading microbe and the other the
7. Outbreak: Infection in a Local
Learn what an epidemiologist does to trace an outbreak. Find out how
an infectious disease can spread through a population through contaminated
water, food, and blood; through aerosols emitted from coughing and sneezing;
through sexual contact; and through vectors (living creatures like mosquitoes
and squirrels that transmit the disease by contact with people). An interactive
screen allows students to act as epidemiologists and investigate a mystery
8. Epidemic to Pandemic: Global Spread
of Infectious Disease
What is an epidemic? What
is a pandemic? How do trade,
travel, war, climate, and urbanization affect the spread of infectious
disease? This section addresses these and other questions. It features
a short video with newscasts from epidemics around the world and maps
highlighting regions where epidemics occur.
9. Taking Action: Individual, Community, & Global
The resource area of the exhibition focuses on success stories in the
efforts to control infectious disease on the individual, community, and
global levels. Using display objects, text panels, photographs and interactives,
this section demonstrates a variety of possible solutions and activities
to encourage students and adults to get involved. Informational brochures,
Websites, and other resources will be available.
10. Infectious Diseases in San Diego
and Baja California: Past and Present
Go back 100 years in time and see how epidemics such as smallpox, influenza,
and tuberculosis affected the San Diego area, including how Balboa Park
was transformed during wartime to deal with epidemics. Then get a dose
of reality with the current epidemics facing San Diego and Baja California
such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C. Learn what we can do
to fight and prevent diseases, individually and as a community, and where
to go to get proper assistance.
As you move through the exhibition, you may also wish to take advantage
of the trained interpreters stationed throughout to help answer questions
and facilitate discussions.
Banner microbe: Adenovirus (virus causing
common cold) and model of HIV (virus causing AIDS)
from the American
Museum of Natural History Epidemic! exhibition
Teacher's Guide | Epidemic! | Exhibits