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Epidemics, Pandemics and Outbreaks

University of Pittsburgh via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


What can we do to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases from becoming epidemics or pandemic? In this course, you’ll learn the facts about infectious diseases and medical responses. We'll focus on the public health laws and policies that provide the framework for effective prevention, like quarantine laws, drug development policies, and bioterrorism and biodefense.


  • Week 1: Introduction
    • Welcome to Week One! This week’s lesson immerses you in the world of epidemics, pandemics and outbreaks and our efforts to prevent and respond to them. It will prepare you to engage in depth with the lessons that are coming up in weeks 2-4: "Understanding Infectious Diseases," "Global Health Security," and "Local Countermeasures."
  • Week 2: Understanding Infectious Diseases
    • Welcome to Week Two! This week’s lesson provides you with the tools needed to understand the world of infectious disease. It will allow you to develop a context of knowledge and familiarity with the concepts that inform legal and public health response strategies to outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics. What you learn here will be drawn upon in weeks 3-4: “Global Health Security” and “Local Countermeasures.”
  • Week 3: Global Health Security
    • Welcome to Week 3! Now that you are more familiar with the nature and history of infectious disease, consider the following quote from Natalie Angier, American nonfiction writer and a science journalist for The New York Times: “Today, diseases as common as the cold and as rare as Ebola are circling the globe with near telephonic speed, making long-distance connections and intercontinental infections almost as if by satellite. You needn't even bother to reach out and touch someone. If you live, if you're homeothermic biomass, you will be reached and touched. Microbes are, after all, members of the most ancient, zealous and Darwinically gilded 24-7 delivery consortium. They travel by land, sea, air, nose, blows, glove, love, sewage, steerage, rat backs, hat racks, uncooked burritos, overlooked mosquitoes. And, oh, how they love the global village.” Indeed, the same forces of globalization that have lowered barriers to global communication, travel, and commerce have amplified the ability for infectious diseases to spread internationally. In many ways, defense against this common threat is only as strong as each nation’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, and the collective ability of the international community to coordinate these capacities multilaterally.
  • Week 4: Local Countermeasures
    • Welcome to Week Four! This week’s lesson introduces you to the legal interventions available to state and local public health practitioners to combat epidemics, pandemics and outbreaks. In addition to the law, we will look at some of the ethical and practical issues associated with disease reporting requirements, the effect of a declaration of an emergency, travel restrictions, quarantine and isolation.

Taught by

Elena Baylis, Elizabeth Bjerke, Amesh Adalja and Ryan Morhard


4.4 rating, based on 10 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Epidemics, Pandemics and Outbreaks

  • Excellent course with innovative approach to exploring and understanding the nature and impacts of pandemics. Good interaction in the forums with timely response from the tutor & moderators. Lots of insights shared!
  • Although this course was created well before the current COVID-19 pandemic, the strategies discussed are very relevant. I found the case studies and discussions of legal jurisdiction interesting, even though it focused on USA laws. It also includes useful optional videos and readings.
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    Anna D
    This is a great, relevant course of introductory level to help you better understand pandemics and health emergencies. It's nicely paced, easy to follow along, consisted of short videos that are interesting and provide useful information. The activities were intriguing and the quizzes were also helpful to internalise the material. It may be short, but offers a great starting point for beginners such as myself.
  • Very timely course during this Covid19 pandemic. It discussed how infectious diseases spread and the legal and ethical implications surrounding the topic. Hope you can add Covid19 in the syllabus soon. The course is just the right length and the instructors gave excellent, easy to understand presentation . Bioterrorism was discussed a bit too which was interesting.
  • This course is very gooood during this epidemic. When you finised this course, you will understand many things. Also Quiz at the end of the lesson can increase your potential of memory, and determination as well. You will not regret Let's studying this course.
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    Emily Ward
    I was disappointed that this class focused so much more on policy than on the biology or social aspects of diseases and epidemics.
  • Profile image for Gina Beaton
    Gina Beaton
  • Maren Wolfe

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