Epidemic, Plague, and Infection
Grade Levels: 3 through 12
Sunshine State Standards:
- For students to recognize disease vectors (pathways) and risk factors for infectious disease
View all Sunshine State Standards
- Grades 3-5
- Grades 6-8
- SC.F.1.3.2, 1.3.3
- Grades 9-12
In Nazi death camps, typhus was spread by lice. Transmission of typhus from human to human increases under conditions of crowded living arrangements, famine, war or any circumstances that lead to heavy infestation with lice. When the louse sucks the blood of a person infected with the parasite causing typhus, the parasite remains in the louse and grows. When the louse is transmitted to another person through contact or clothing, the louse bites the person. The infected feces from the louse are rubbed into the wound, rubbed into the eye, or inhaled. Each situation results in human infection. The symptoms of typhus appear abruptly, with severe headache, generalized aches and pains and chills. A fever follows and a rash (lasts for 1-2 weeks) appears over the entire body except for the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The flu-like symptoms can progress to a delirious state and stupor and, without treatment, can result in coma and death.
In ghettos, typhoid spread through contaminated drinking water. Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. Salmonella Typhi lives only in humans. Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called carriers, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed S. Typhi in their feces (stool). You can get typhoid fever if you eat food or drink beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding S. Typhi or if sewage contaminated with S. Typhi bacteria gets into the water you use for drinking or washing food. Once S. Typhi bacteria are ingested, they multiply and spread into the bloodstream. The body reacts with fever and other signs and symptoms.
Sets of 10 small colored objects for each student, such as colored paper or colored paper clips. Each student needs 10 of the same color, and at least 6 different colors need to be included. Identify the least common color as the disease carrier color, but don't let the students know which color it is.
- Have students trade tokens with 10 other students. Color does not matter during trading.
- After trading is completed, identify the disease carrier color, and ask how many students now have that color. This activity simulates the spread of infectious disease from carriers to victims.
- Discuss the crowded and unsanitary conditions in the European ghettos and concentration camps where Jews and others were segregated by the Nazis. Bring up the difficulty of avoiding disease in such conditions, especially with inadequate heating and diet.
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.