The Habitable PlanetHabitable Planet home page

Interactive Labs

Disease Lab

Lessons > Counter-Virus > Step 2

Let's assume that there hasn't been time to develop and distribute a vaccine. However, we may not be dealing with an entirely virgin field. There may be a disease similar to Red Death which would provide immunity without a high death rate. (A situation like this occurred in the days of smallpox, when it was discovered that the similar but less lethal cow pox made people immune.) If we release this "reduced" virus into the population before Red Death comes along, some people will become sick and may even die from the reduced virus, but would the immunity provided make up for that? This final scenario may not be very realistic, as we don't fight diseases by releasing other diseases into a population. However, it does show how the different aspects of a disease (sick days, transmission rate, death rate, and immunity) interact. Change the tableau to countervirus. Choose one of the "C-Viruses" from the Countermeasure pull-down and review the features of that virus with its details button. Which of the three Countermeasure viruses (slow, medium, or fast) will do the best job in reducing the death toll in the population while also minimizing sick days per capita? Make a prediction based on everything you've learned about the effects of vaccination and disease transmission, record it, and then run the simulation three times for each of the C-Virus choices. Answer the following:

  1. Can you think of any environmental factors that might contribute to the spread of the disease? How would a counter-virus affect these environmental factors and/or the environmental factors affect it?
  2. Can counter-viruses be used to fight disease internationally or would they be most effective at a local level? What could health officials do to insure that the highest number of those at risk around the globe are receiving the most effective preventative health care possible?

© Annenberg Foundation 2014. All rights reserved. Legal Policy