School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Current Challenges in Infectious Diseases (PHCM9782)

image - Current Challenges in Infectious Diseases


Throughout history new pathogens such as HIV, SARS and pandemic influenza have emerged to challenge human populations. This course will introduce you to the challenges of controlling or managing infectious diseases through an appreciation of key factors such as differing modes of transmission, the impact of travel and behaviour on transmission, the importance of surveillance in achieving disease prevention and control, key steps in outbreak investigation and current disease control and management strategies. Dengue fever, hepatitis A virus, HIV, influenza, measles, meningococcal meningitis, rota virus, SARS and TB will be used to learn about preparing for and containing diseases with potentially catastrophic impact to the health and economic stability. This course supports you achieving a range of capabilities that you will need if you are planning to have a career in epidemiology and infectious disease control.

Credit points

This course is a core course in the Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence program, and is also an elective course in the Master of Public Health, Master of International Public Health and the Master of Health Management programs. It comprises 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program. There are no pre-requisites for this course.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

This course aims to introduce you to the challenges of controlling or managing infectious diseases through an appreciation of the theory of transmission modes; dealing with diseases at the human/animal interface; the important role of surveillance in disease prevention and control; the steps in an outbreak investigation, and current disease control and management strategies.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of infectious disease epidemiology including important modes of transmission and the burden of disease in the international context.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of surveillance principles and practice and the ability to identify the appropriate features of surveillance systems of relevance in particular settings.
  • Be able to determine appropriate strategies for investigating an outbreak and to propose additional strategies to contain and prevent further spread of an outbreak.
  • Show an understanding of the role of modelling in guiding infectious disease control including basic concepts underlying transmission and cost-effectiveness modelling.
  • Discuss the main challenges in undertaking activities around the surveillance and control of infectious diseases.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the methods used to control infectious diseases and engage critically with relevant literature for the purpose of evaluating interventions in a specific context.
Learning and teaching rationale

Core content is provided through lectures, including expert guest lectures. Weekly small group activities, which include the use of case studies and online student discussions, have been designed to engage students in the learning process to encourage active and self-directed learning and provide opportunities for students to debate key areas relevant to this course. Postgraduate teaching aims to support students in developing their capacity for inquiry and critical thinking. In this course, an active learning approach is encouraged through which include interactive instruction, self-directed learning, collaborative problem solving and peer learning.

The approach to learning and teaching and the organisation of this course are designed to encourage the development of lifelong learning skills and intellectual flexibility that can be applied to the area of infection control and prevention.

Teaching strategies

This course is available in both internal and external study mode. It consists of weekly lectures and small group discussions throughout the semester. Students are strongly encouraged to come to class having read the pre-readings, which are listed in each of the module course notes. These readings will be used in class discussion and tutorial activities.   

The learning activities will vary according to the Module content. Some weeks you will be given a lecture followed by an activity that requires you to have read pre-readings that will enable you to participate in class discussion. Other weeks the learning activity will focus on group exercises. Please note each week it is expected that you will participate in exercises and discussions even when a lecture is the primary learning delivery method for that week.

Each week, expert-led lectures provide core content material, which are followed by case studies or active discussion providing opportunities for students to explore the course content. Lectures will be provided by members of the Infectious Disease Group and by experts from the field drawing on their particular areas of expertise to introduce you to core theoretical approaches and applications from the field.


Assessment Task 1 - Short Report and PowerPoint presentation
Weighting: 30%
Length: 1000 words and up to 5 slides

Assessment Task 2 - Online Discussion
Weighting: 30%

Assessment Task 3 - Report
Weighting: 40%
Length: 2500 words

Readings and resources
Learning resources for this course consist of the following:
  1. Course notes and readings
  2. Lectures slides (posted in Moodle)
  3. Lecture recordings (available in Moodle)
  4. Supplementary resources such as videos, podcasts (available in Moodle)
Recommended resources

Learning resources for this course are listed in the course pack at the end of each Module. In addition the following textbooks are recommended background reading

Plant, A. J., & Watson, C. (2008). Communicable disease control: an introduction. East Hawthorn, Vic: IP Communications.

Giesecke, J. (2001) Modern Infectious Disease Epidemiology, 2nd ed, Taylor & Francis. Ebook available from UNSW Library.

Heymann, D.L. (2004). Control of communicable diseases manual: an official report of the American Public Health Association (18th ed.). Washington, D.C: American Public Health Association