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Date: April 14, 2005
Level: Harder (Try the easier lesson.)
Downloads: This Lesson (Word Doc) | Class Handout (Word Doc) | Class Handout (PDF)

Listening (1:59 - 234 KB - 16kbps)

THE ARTICLE

A lethal influenza virus that has the potential to trigger a global pandemic has been accidentally sent to thousands of laboratories around the world. The World Health Organization has urged the labs to “immediately” destroy samples of a flu strain that killed almost 4 million people in the 1957-58 Asian influenza pandemic. The mistake occurred when the College of American Pathologists included the deadly H2N2 virus in testing kits that laboratories use to determine their ability to identify various viruses. The samples were sent to 3,747 laboratories in 18 countries. The WHO has asked that, “any case of respiratory disease among laboratory workers be investigated and notified to national authorities”.

WHO concerns about a pandemic are real because the strain of flu is highly contagious, especially among those under 36 who have no immunity to it. It has not been included in flu inoculations since 1968, which is when the H2N2 virus vanished. The WHO said it “is taking steps to ensure the rapid destruction of this material”. Its website* says the danger of a pandemic is low: “The likelihood of laboratory-acquired influenza infection is considered low when proper biosafety precautions are followed. The risk for the general population is also considered low.” However, the WHO delayed posting the error on its website until after the affected laboratories were informed, to avoid the threat of bioterrorism.

WARM UPS

1. CHAT: Talk in pairs or groups about: flu / accidents / WHO / people under 36 / laboratories / immunity / biohazards / virus / bioterrorism. For more conversation, change topics and partners frequently.

2. VIRUS BRAINSTORM: Spend one minute writing down all of the different words you associate with the word “virus”. Share your words with your partner / group and talk about them.

3. MISTAKES: Your task is to find out the kind of mistakes your classmates have made. Talk to as many people you can about their biggest / costliest / funniest / most regrettable / most annoying… mistakes. In pairs / groups talk about the mistakes you heard about and hold an “Academy Award” ceremony for those who made the best or most interesting mistakes.

4. MY FLU HISTORY: Brainstorm all of the symptoms of colds and flu. Interview your partner / group members about these symptoms and how flu and colds affect their lives. Ask many questions because you suspect your partner / one of your classmates may be carrying a deadly virus and need to know about their every sniff and sneeze.

5. OPINIONS: Look at the following opinions and discuss them with your partner / group:

  1. Everyone makes mistakes. We’re only human.
  2. One of these days someone will make a huge mistake. Security must be tighter.
  3. I’m amazed terrorists haven’t yet got their hands on viruses.
  4. The WHO does such a great job.
  5. The person responsible for this mistake should be fired immediately.
  6. It’s scary to think of all the biohazardous and nuclear materials that are sent around the world every minute of every day.
  7. Wow. I’d hate to work in such a dangerous job.
  8. I don’t feel too good. I wonder if I have the flu.
  9. I think a virus killed off the dinosaurs and will do the same to us.
  10. One day, all viruses will be things of the past.

 
 

PRE-READING IDEAS

1. WORD SEARCH: Use your dictionary / computer to find word partners (collocates), other meanings, synonyms or more information on the words ‘flu’ and ‘strain’.

2. TRUE / FALSE: Look at the article’s headline and guess whether these sentences are true or false:

  1. A lethal influenza virus was mistakenly mailed to people’s homes.  T / F
  2. The virus killed 4 million people in the late ‘50s.  T / F
  3. The virus has been sent to 118 countries.  T / F
  4. The WHO has quarantined laboratory workers as a safety measure.  T / F
  5. The strain of flu is highly contagious.  T / F
  6. People over the age of 36 are safe – they are immune to the virus.  T / F
  7. The WHO said the risk of a global pandemic is high.  T / F
  8. The WHO was worried about the threat of bioterrorism .  T / F

3. SYNONYM MATCH: Match the following synonyms from the article:

(a)

trigger

equipment

(b)

accidentally

jabs (UK) / shots (USA)

(c)

killed

minimal

(d)

kits

fears

(e)

case

spark

(f)

real

tangible

(g)

concerns

wiped out

(h)

inoculations

safeguards

(i)

low

erroneously

(j)

precautions

occurrence

4. PHRASE MATCH: Match the following phrases from the article (sometimes more than one combination is possible):

(a)

has the

a global pandemic

(b)

trigger

contagious

(c)

influenza

occurred

(d)

The mistake

inoculations

(e)

respiratory

posting the error on its website

(f)

concerns about a pandemic

potential to

(g)

highly

disease

(h)

flu

are followed

(i)

proper biosafety precautions

pandemic

(j)

the WHO delayed

are real

 

WHILE READING ACTIVITIES

1. SPOT THE MISTAKES: Half of the words in bold in each paragraph are right and half are wrong. Circle the incorrect words and try to replace them with words that fit.

Killer flu virus mistakenly sent worldwide

A lethal influenza virus that has the potential to trigger a global pandemic has been accidentally sent to thousands of laboratories around the hemisphere. The World Health Organization has urged the labs to “immediately” destroy samples of a flu strain that killed almost 4 billion people in the 1957-58 Asian influenza pandemic. The mistake recurred when the College of American Pathologists included the deadly H2N2 virus in testing kits that laboratories use to determine their ability to identify various viruses. The samples were sent to 3,747 laboratories in 18 countries. The WHO has asked that, “any container of respiratory disease among laboratory workers be investigated and notified to national authorities”.

WHO concerns about a pandemic are real because the strain of flu is lowly contagious, especially among those under 36 who have no immunity to it. It has not been included in flu inoculations since 1968, which is when the H2N2 virus vanished. The WHO said it “is taking stairs to ensure the rapid destruction of this material”. Its website says the danger of a pandemic is low: “The likelihood of laboratory-inquired influenza infection is considered low when proper biosafety precautions are followed. The risk for the general population is also considered low.” However, the WHO delayed posting the error on its website until after the affected laboratories were informed, to avoid the treat of bioterrorism.

2. TRUE/FALSE: Check your answers to the T/F exercise.

3. SYNONYMS: Check your answers to the synonyms exercise.

4. PHRASE MATCH: Check your answers to the phrase match exercise.

5. QUESTIONS: Make notes for questions you would like to ask the class about the article.

6. VOCABULARY: Circle any words you do not understand. In groups, pool unknown words and use dictionaries to find their meanings.


 
 

POST READING IDEAS

1. SPOT THE MISTAKES: Check the answers to this exercise. Explain to your partner any relationships between the correct and incorrect words.

2. QUESTIONS: Ask the discussion questions you thought of above to your partner / group / class. Pool the questions for everyone to share.

3. VOCABULARY: As a class, go over the vocabulary students circled above.

4. STUDENT-GENERATED SURVEY: In pairs/groups write down 3 questions based on the article. Each student surveys class members independently and reports back to their original partner/  group to compare their findings.

5. ‘FLU’ / ‘STRAIN’: Make questions based on your findings from pre-reading activity #1.

6. DISCUSSION:

  1. Did anything in this article make you think?
  2. Was there anything in this article that made you worry?
  3. Are you feeling OK today?
  4. How often do you come down with colds or the flu?
  5. How badly do you suffer from colds or the flu?
  6. Do you have a strong constitution?
  7. What do you think of the mistake in this article?
  8. Should anyone be reprimanded or punished for this mistake?
  9. Are you careful to avoid contact with viruses in your everyday life?
  10. How often do you wash your hands?
  11. What do you do when someone near coughs or sneezes incessantly?
  12. Do you ever get a flu shot / jab?
  13. Would you like to work in a virus research laboratory?
  14. What would you do right this minute if a newsflash appeared on TV alerting of a pandemic in your city?
  15. Are you more worried about epidemics and pandemics because of SARS, bird flu and the more recent Marburg virus in Angola?
  16. Will a cure for the common cold ever be found?
  17. Do you think scientists will get the better of viruses one day?
  18. Will terrorists ever get their hands on a virus and release it?
  19. Which single virus would you like to see eradicated?
  20. Did you like this discussion?
  21. Teacher / Student additional questions.

7. PANDEMIC PLAN: You are the head of your town’s government. In pairs / groups, create an emergency plan on what citizens should do if a lethal virus hits your region. Some the following may be important in your plans: hospitals / TV stations / water supplies / army / vaccines / international help / animals …

When you have finished, change partners / groups and explain your plans. It is your job to pick holes in the plans of your new partner. Your new partner must justify his / her plan.

8. VIRUS ROLE PLAY: Use the following role play cards in a discussion about the H2N2 virus. Team up with partners to discuss your roles and “strategy” before the role play begins. After the role play, discuss whether you really believed what you were saying.

THE ROLES:

Student A
You think you sent the virus around the world. You accept full responsibility and apologize for everything every time someone is angry with you.

Student B
You are a Student B’s coworker. You have information that proves Student A did not send the lethal virus around the world. The information is top secret. You must defend Student A.

Student C
You are the president of the laboratory that sent the influenza strains around the world. You are very embarrassed about the affair – apologize to everyone. You are furious with Student A and want him / her fired.

Student D
You are a paparazzi reporter. You think you have a great story. You know that if you can make a link between Student A and international bioterrorists, you can sell your story for $1,729,938.

Student E
You are a police officer from Interpol. You suspect Student A is part of an international terrorism ring. You have information that indicates Student A wants to sell the virus to terrorists.

Student F
You are president of your own laboratory. You are 35. Last week you received one of the virus testing kits. Today you have a bad cold and respiratory problems. You want to sue Student C.

Student G
You are the mother / father of Student A. You know butter wouldn’t melt in his / her mouth and that she / he wouldn’t hurt a fly. Protect your son / daughter.

Student H
You love the sound of your own voice. Agree or disagree with anyone at any time. You just love talking.

HOMEWORK

1. VOCABULARY EXTENSION: Choose several of the words from the text. Use a dictionary or Google’s search field (or another search engine) to build up more associations / collocations of each word.

2. INTERNET: Search the Internet and find information on the WHO. Share your findings with your class next lesson.

3. ANGRY LETTER: Write a letter to the College of American Pathologists expressing your outrage at this mistake. Read it to your class in your next lesson.

4. ONE VIRUS: Write a short article about one virus that has been in the news recently. Talk about your article in your next class.

ANSWERS

TRUE / FALSE:

  1. A lethal influenza virus was mistakenly mailed to people’s homes.  F
  2. The virus killed 4 million people in the late ‘50s.  T
  3. The virus has been sent to 118 countries.  F
  4. The WHO has quarantined laboratory workers as a safety measure.  F
  5. The strain of flu is highly contagious.  T
  6. People over the age of 36 are safe – they are immune to the virus.  T
  7. The WHO said the risk of a global pandemic is high.  F
  8. The WHO was worried about the threat of bioterrorism .  T

SYNONYM MATCH:

(a)

trigger

spark

(b)

accidentally

erroneously

(c)

killed

wiped out

(d)

kits

equipment

(e)

case

occurrence

(f)

real

tangible

(g)

concerns

fears

(h)

inoculations

jabs (UK) / shots (USA)

(i)

low

minimal

(j)

precautions

safeguards

PHRASE MATCH:

(a)

has the

potential to

(b)

trigger

a global pandemic

(c)

influenza

pandemic

(d)

The mistake

occurred

(e)

respiratory

disease

(f)

concerns about a pandemic

are real

(g)

highly

contagious

(h)

flu

inoculations

(i)

proper biosafety precautions

are followed

(j)

the WHO delayed

posting the error on its website

 

SPOT THE MISTAKES:

Killer flu virus mistakenly sent worldwide

A lethal influenza virus that has the potential to trigger a global pandemic has been accidentally sent to thousands of laboratories around the world. The World Health Organization has urged the labs to “immediately” destroy samples of a flu strain that killed almost 4 million people in the 1957-58 Asian influenza pandemic. The mistake occurred when the College of American Pathologists included the deadly H2N2 virus in testing kits that laboratories use to determine their ability to identify various viruses. The samples were sent to 3,747 laboratories in 18 countries. The WHO has asked that, “any case of respiratory disease among laboratory workers be investigated and notified to national authorities”.

WHO concerns about a pandemic are real because the strain of flu is highly contagious, especially among those under 36 who have no immunity to it. It has not been included in flu inoculations since 1968, which is when the H2N2 virus vanished. The WHO said it “is taking steps to ensure the rapid destruction of this material”. Its website says the danger of a pandemic is low: “The likelihood of laboratory-acquired influenza infection is considered low when proper biosafety precautions are followed. The risk for the general population is also considered low.” However, the WHO delayed posting the error on its website until after the affected laboratories were informed, to avoid the threat of bioterrorism.

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