How viruses spread and how are they stopped


A Webquest for Ms. Fagan’s Biomedical Engineering Course

P.S./ M.S. 129    The John H. Finley School




Viruses are very small particles that can infect all living things and make them sick.  Viruses are made up of genetic materials like DNA or RNA and are protected by a coating of protein.

When someone gets sick from a virus that is because the virus has “hijacked” the cells of the host.  The virus then injects its genetic material right into the cell and “takes over.”  The virus then uses the cell to make more viruses and “take over” more cells, which will make that person sick as a result.  

Unfortunately, there are many people who are still getting sick from viruses in our neighborhood and other areas around the world.  Sadly, without proper care some people can end up having permanent health complications and some unfortunately pass away from these viruses if they are too old or have other health problems on top of that.  However, there is hope!  Finding or engineering something called an antiviral is the solution.



The Task

The goal of the Webquest is for you to engineer a response to prevent the spread of a viral disease by investigating how diseases spread and how viruses infect cells as well as come up with an antivirus.  At the end you will be expected to share the antivirals and public service announcement you created to stop the spread of the disease.



The Process

You will be separated into groups of 3 or 4 in each group.


  1. Define the Problem - you will have to engineer a response to prevent the spread of a viral disease. You will start by investigating how diseases spread and how diseases spread and how viruses infect cells.  

The teacher will have spread some UV glow powder around the room.

The teacher will ask “do you know what engineers do?”

The teacher will ask if you have ever heard of the term “quarantine” before” and what does it mean?

The teacher will have you Think-Pair-Share for the answer.

The teacher will have a shoe box that has two Petri dishes and a vial of UV glow powder.  

The teacher will instruct you that you need to get the UV glow powder, evenly, into each Petri dish without getting the UV glow powder or “virus” on any other part of the box.

You will have two opportunities to try it out in your group.  

The teacher will have each group share your observations.  

The teacher will have you watch the following video from 0 minutes up to 2 minutes.


The teacher will have you read a breaking news statement from the CDC Subject titled: General Viral Warning.   

            “We are issuing a general warning to be on high alert for outbreaks of highly infectious viral diseases.  Instances of such diseases have been on the rise in recent months and local officials and biomedical engineers should be sure to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they are prepared to engineer a response to the outbreak.”  


The teacher will have you fill out

The teacher will turn out the lights and turn on the UV flashlight to see where the “virus” spread to in the classroom.


2.                  Gather Evidence


You will watch the rest of the video


The teacher will then explain that if viruses can stick to cells via the virus-cell receptors, they can infect the cell and make copies of themselves. 

The teacher will say that will use models to simulate how viruses infect cells inside our bodies.


3.                  Identify the Causes


Discuss why it is easier to spread now? 

Think-Pair-Share what is a pandemic.

The teacher will have you read and share responses to the following article:



Think-Pair-Share why it might be useful to use models to investigate viruses?

The teacher will ask you what might the pieces of Velcro model?

The teacher will ask you to model the viral infection process on a model cell.


4.                  Evaluate   Existing Policy


The teacher will have you read the following article:


You will then investigate the virus that is causing the outbreak by building model virus structures and observing how they interact with the model cell.


5.                  Develop Solutions

You will engineer an antiviral that will block the model virus from attaching to the cell model.


The teacher will have you read the following article:



6.                  Select the Best Solution

You will design a new model antiviral for the virus mutant model that is worsening the viral pandemic.



The Evaluation

The teacher will have you read this article:


The teacher will have you answer the questions that follow:


Afterwards you will display and present their public service announcement in your groups.



The Conclusion


            The students will take on the role as a public health official and explore ways to educate the public in order to stop the spread of the disease. 



Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.1.A, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.1.B, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.1.C, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.1.D

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1.A, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1.B, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1.C, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1.D, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.3

Standard 5 – Technology Education:  Students will apply technological knowledge and skills to design, construct, use, and evaluate products and systems to satisfy human and environmental needs.