Question Sheet: Fighting Off Micro-Invader Epidemics


Before reading:

  1. How do you catch the flu? Where does it come from?
  2. Why do we usually get chickenpox only once in a lifetime?

During reading:

  1. What are some of the main building blocks of cells? Which ones are important for viruses?
  2. What is the difference between a virus and an epidemic?
  3. How are we able to fight off viruses when they attack?
  4. Why do we have vaccines?
  5. Where did monkeypox first emerge?
  6. What are some precautions we can take to protect us from viruses?
  7. How do you keep your immune system working smoothly?

After reading:

  1. Microbiologist Amy Vollmer claims that we haven’t survived on the planet out of sheer strength or superiority. Why do you think she believes this? What evidence does she use to support her idea?
  2. Why do scientists, after a new epidemic emerges, immediately try to locate its source?
  3. How might protecting animals help us reduce the chances of getting infected by viruses?


  1. In the article, viruses are said to “carry instructions” about how to make more viruses. Is this a simile or a metaphor? Think of three other ways to describe what happens when a virus reproduces itself?
  2. We tend to talk about viruses as invaders, enemies, and attackers. Why do we use such strong terms? What do these words demonstrate about how we think of viruses? Come up with two other terms that describe how a virus acts.
  3. If you were going to give a short presentation to your class about the spread of viruses, what would be the most important information you would want to include? Prepare a short outline, including each topic and the order in which you would present the topics.


Scientists have determined that, on average, 35 million people in the United States get the flu each year. Let’s say a flu vaccine exists that could prevent 20 percent of these cases of the flu. How many people would be helped?