Virus Tracking: Lesson Plan

Viruses like influenza, Ebola and Zika can spread widely around the world through shipping, travel and other means by which we humans move things from one place to another. DNA sequencing can provide a roadmap that a virus has followed to get where it is today. Watch as researchers use DNA sequencing to create a powerful tool to track the spread of the Zika virus around the world.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 8.L.1.1 — Summarize the basic characteristics of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites relating to the spread, treatment and prevention of disease.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to: 

  • Explain how a vector can transmit a virus to a host. 
  • Give examples of vectors and the viruses they might carry.

Essential Vocabulary

  • Pathogen 
  • Virus 
  • Host 
  • Vector


Students will view the UNC-TV Seasonal Science video Asian Tiger Mosquito.

After watching the video, conduct a brief class discussion in order to connect the Asian tiger mosquito to the curriculum content for infectious diseases. Prompt students with the question: Other than annoying us at backyard barbeques and causing us itchy, red bites, why are mosquitos a problem? Student may or may not know at this time mosquitoes can carry and transmit diseases.


Students will view pictures of families sleeping under a mosquito net using the links below or other resources.

Ask the students to turn to a partner to discuss: Why are these families under a net? Students will discuss how disease can be spread through contact with other organisms such as mosquitos which carry viruses and protozoa, which can infect people. 

Encourage the students to use a graphic organizer to organize their notes such as the one below.

Virus Chart


Students will read the WebMD article "Asian Tiger Mosquito Could Spread U.S. Disease."

Using the provided file "Mosquito Video 4-Square Vocabulary-S,” have students create a 4-square model for the essential vocabulary terms. Students will divide their paper into four quadrants. The steps for a 4-square model are as follows:

  1. Students start with only the term and a picture, which is drawn, in the lower left quadrant. 
  2. Students brainstorm a list of words/terms that describe or are associated with the vocabulary term. The list can be created by looking at the picture provided with the term. This goes in the upper left quadrant. 
  3. Students write their own definition for the term using the words in the first box and the picture. This goes in the upper right quadrant. 
  4. Students use all the information about the vocabulary term to write a context clue sentence using the term. This goes in the lower right quadrant.

A completed 4-square model for the essential vocabulary terms is provided in the file “Mosquito Video Completed 4-Square Vocabulary File-T.”  This can be shown to students after they attempt the vocabulary to aid in a class explanation of the terms.

Have students explore the specific illnesses transmitted by the Asian tiger mosquito. Students should complete the provided graphic organizer/data table for the illnesses by using information found on the Center for Disease Control website ( to complete the data table for each illness. The “CDC A-Z Index” is the best starting point. From there, click on the first letter of the illness you are exploring and find it in the list. After completing the research, students can summarize their findings by drawing conclusions about illnesses carried by mosquitoes. The student worksheet is provided in the file “Mosquito Video Sick of Mosquitoes! Worksheet-S” and the answer key is provided in the file “Mosquito Video Sick of Mosquitoes! Worksheet Answer Key-T.”


Another illness spread by mosquitos is the Zika virus. Though Asian tiger mosquitos belong to the culex species and the vectors for Zika are members of the aedes species, many experts believe that Asian tiger mosquitos can also become Zika carriers. Students will watch the NC Science Now video Virus Tracking and then participate in a class discussion.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. When was Zika first identified? 
  2. How is the Zika virus transmitted from person to person? 
  3. Describe the ways in which the virus has spread across several continents and oceans to reach South and North America.
  4. Describe the role of mutations regarding the increased severity of Zika.


The key to preventing or containing mosquito-borne viruses is to control the spread of the insects that carry them. Students could convert what they learn to a public service poster, brochure or video announcement to inform the community of ways to control the spread of mosquitoes.

Online resources for students to use include: