Brooklyn College will introduce a course on the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring semester, nearly one year after the city’s first coronavirus case.
The class — taught by lecturer Jolanta Kruszelnicka from the college’s Health and Nutrition Sciences Department — will cover a new pandemic-related topic every week. Students will be start off by learning about the history of pandemics and their causes, according to assistant professor, Enrique Pouget.
In one lesson, students will study the 19th century cholera pandemic in London, which began after a mother washed her sick baby’s diaper and dumped the virus-laden water close to a town well, according to English physician John Snow.
At the time, most medical professionals believed that the disease was airborne, and rejected Snow’s theory that cholera spread through contaminated drinking water. But once Snow cut off access to the soiled water by removing the well’s pump handle, the outbreak stopped.
The medical field’s initial reaction to Snow’s hypothesis has had its parallels during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pouget noted.
“This reminds me of how many scientists were slow to recognize that the coronavirus is transmitted mainly through aerosols because their paradigm was that these types of viruses were spread mainly through droplets and surfaces,” he said.
The course will also dissect parallels between COVID-19 and early attempts to eradicate smallpox. In Asia, scientists developed an early form of inoculation against smallpox called “variolation,” in which dried smallpox scabs were blown into a patient’s nose. But some western physicians were reluctant to use the method given its area of origin, according to Pouget.
Throughout the semester-long course, students will learn the fundamentals of data analysis and public health policy, and will critique national responses to the virus and the vaccine’s rollout. The goal of the course is to help students understand governmental failures and successes in handling the pandemic and give students the tools to help their communities recover.
“No matter what your major is, I feel like having the opportunity to take a COVID-19 class would be beneficial,” said Brooklyn College student Jonas Jackson, who hopes to use the course to help educate family and friends about the virus.