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Virginia J Allum

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Virginia J Allum

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Using health-related articles to produce teaching resources
By Virginia J Allum   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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Using health-related articles from newspapers or online health information sites is a great way to develop your own English for Medicine articles. Students are provided with the opportunity to recycle medical terminology and to discuss interesting and current health issues in class.

I like to create as many teaching resources as I can using online health articles as a basis. I have written an article about Rabies as an example of a lesson I would use in a Medical English classroom. The article gives students the opportunity to:

1. Read and discuss a health article which is of current interest – the incident referred to happened this year.

2. Review some prefixes and suffixes and medical terms. For example,









3. Review the peripheral and central nervous system – perhaps leading to presentations or flow on activities which students can make themselves for the class (crosswords, closes and matching activities)


4. Review terms relating to disease and treatment, for example,


treated at

viral infection, infected by






vaccination, vaccine


Palliative Care


5. Identify compound words in the text –ask students to comment on the forms of the compound words (some have a space between the two words, some a hyphen and some are written together)


viral infection



6. Discuss the difference between ‘hydrophobia’ (irrational fear of drinking water and other liquids) and ‘aqua phobia’ (irrational fear of getting into water e.g. the ocean)


Preparation for the lesson. Produce a worksheet which practises some or all of the suggestions above (prefixes, compound words, words relating to medicine). Also include  3 – 4 comprehension questions.


Before you start, ask students what they already know about rabies. Start a mind map and add to it as students learn more about the disease.


Ask students to read the article and complete the worksheet.

An extension exercise: World Rabies Day is September 28. Ask students to research the day and report on the events occurring in their country (or a country they select)

What is Rabies?

BBC Health News ( confirmed a rabies case in London on 24 May 2012.

A patient who was bitten by a dog in South East Asia before arriving in the UK has a confirmed case of rabies. The patient was treated at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases but, unfortunately, died a few days after arrival.

Rabies is a viral infection which is transmitted to humans via the saliva of animals, most often dogs (99% of all cases).The word rabies comes from the Latin word rabies meaning ‘rage’.

Bats in Northern Europe can be infected by a rabies-like virus called European Bat Lyssavirus (EBLV). A case of infection via a bat was recorded in a bat-handler in Scotland in 2003 but it is otherwise unknown in the UK.

The word lyssa’ is the Greek word for ‘rabies’ and refers to a structure on the tip of the dog's tongue. This used to be thought to be the cause of rabies. These days, lyssa is only used in the term lyssavirus meaning a ‘rabies-like virus’.

Globally, more than 55,000 people die from rabies each year. The hotspots are Asia (around 31,000 cases) and Africa (around 24,000 cases). India has the most cases of any country because of the large numbers of stray dogs.

As far as Europe is concerned, the following countries are considered rabies-free Austria, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Germany (since 2008) , Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.  

Rabies has still been reported in most of the 19 countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The main vectors or sources of the disease are the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) ,the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and cats (reported in the Ukraine). Croatia and Serbia are the two countries in Eastern Europe where no human rabies cases have been reported for over 30 years.

The disease is unheard of in Australia and New Zealand, however, the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) which infects the native Australian bat is similar to rabies.  

Rabies is a viral infection which eventually causes encephalitis. The long incubation period of a few months relates to the time the virus takes to travel from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system.

Early symptoms include malaise, headache and fever. If the disease is not identified the patient will experience acute pain, violent jerky movements and hydrophobia. Hydrophobia causes patients to have dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) , panic when presented with something to drink and an inability to quench their thirst. In the final stages, patients may exhibit manic behaviour but eventually become extremely lethargic and then become comatose and die.

There are three modes of treatment depending on the stage of the disease.

1. Prevention: vaccination with three injections over a month.

2.Post-exposure prophylaxis – This is the treatment started after a dog bite to prevent infection with the rabies virus. The wound is cleaned and an injection of rabies immunoglobulin ( antibodies) is given to the patient. Finally, a course of the rabies vaccine. 

3. Supportive or Palliative Care – This is the only treatment available for an advanced case of rabies infection. Patients are kept as comfortable as possible.

Web Site: What is rabies?

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