drawing by Honore Daumier from 1864, entitled "Paris, influenza"
"Paris, influenza" drawing by Honore Daumier, 18th February 1864

Welcome to this course

Over the next two weeks, we will cover everything from the history of influenza to modern laboratory diagnostics and vaccination. You’ll learn about the annual cycle that brings seasonal flu to our shores every winter, and also how avian and pig flus can contribute to the emergence of new pandemic strains of flu.

We’ll also look at the structure of the virus in more detail, seeing how the study of influenza is now carried out at the molecular level.

As well as mini-lectures, there will be laboratory demonstrations, interviews with experts in a variety of relevant fields, and discussion sessions, where you’ll be invited to contribute your own experiences and opinions to the subject of flu, and how we should treat and prevent it.

Each step has a space where you can post a comment.

I won’t be able to answer questions or respond to your comments, but we do encourage you to support each other by sharing your knowledge with other learners.

If you think you can answer a question posed by another course participant please do so. If you prefer to tweet, the hashtag is #FLflu.

One of the great things about online courses is that you can meet and talk to people from all over the world with a wide range of backgrounds. Also, if you are a specialist in one of the subjects, such as virology, medicine evolution or epidemiology, please feel free to comment on any of the course material.

Glossary of key words and concepts

The background of participants on this course is very varied. Some of you are recreational learners who are curious to learn new things, and others are professionals in biology or medicine, with all shades in between represented. Consequently, the degree to which you are familiar with the jargon of virology in particular and molecular biology in general, will vary.

You will find a glossary in the downloads section below, of some of the most important terms which keep cropping up in the course. If you are a complete beginner, don’t worry if you don’t understand things straight away. Please feel free to ask questions on the message boards. Some things will become clearer as we progress through the course and the context becomes apparent.

You may find it useful to print and keep alongside you, as you progress through the steps.


Follow Dr Derek Gatherer on FutureLearn and on Twitter @viroscape

Get extra benefits, upgrade your course

You can now get extra benefits by upgrading this course, including:

Unlimited access to the course: Go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn.

Access to tests: Ensure you’ve mastered the material with access to tests on the course.

A Certificate of Achievement: To help you demonstrate your learning we’ll send you a Certificate of Achievement when you become eligible. Find out more

Pre Course Survey

Please share your feedback about this course by completing FutureLearn’s short, optional, pre-course survey. Your views help FutureLearn and Lancaster University to improve our courses.

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This article is from the free online course:

Influenza: How the Flu Spreads and Evolves

Lancaster University