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Deadly Flu

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Since bird flu fears first popped up, occasional stories about the next big pandemic have appeared in the news. According to the most recent report, a virus as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu, which raced across the globe and killed 40 million people, could kill twice that number today. And those staggering figures take into account advances in medicine, particularly antibiotics, which were unavailable in the early 20th century.

The data was compiled by examining mortality rates between 1914 and 1923 in twenty-seven countries worldwide, thereby determining average death rates before and after the outbreak. This provided researchers a clear number, allowing them to then apply the data to present population statistics. The number of deaths could jump by 184% in a given year, representing a worst-case scenario. What's more, 96% of the deaths would occur in the developing world, suggesting other issues will intervene in the death toll.

Preview the lesson material:

Warm Up: Do you agree or disagree? Discuss the statements for two or three minutes.

  1. Are you worried about some sort of disaster affecting humankind? Why/not?
  2. Are you worried about a deadly disease killing many people around the world?

Vocabulary: Check the new vocabulary in a dictionary. Then match the words.

  1. pandemic
  2. staggering
  3. compile
  4. outbreak
  • very surprising
  • beginning
  • worldwide disease
  • put together

Discuss: Discuss these questions with a partner. Remember to support your answers.

  1. What would you do if there were a pandemic? How would your everyday life change?
  2. If there were an outbreak, how far would you go to protect yourself and your family?
  3. Do you think that there will be an outbreak in the next 5 years? 10 years? 25 years?

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