Modelling disease outbreaks: teachers' materials

When contagious diseases break out, they can spread quickly between people forming an epidemic. We'd like to stop this happening, but one of the problems is that we can't run lots of tests on real people to see what might stop diseases spreading. We can't, for example, give a bunch of people a disease and see whether it spreads faster if they travel to school by train or by bus.

However, computer simulations of disease outbreaks can help us do exactly that. We can make models of diseases in a computer and let them take over a simulated group of people. In the computer we can see how they would spread, but we can also play with the models like a game to see what slows the diseases down or stops them spreading.


The materials on this site let students experiment with these kinds of models, see how geography is important in these models, and even build one themselves.


A teachers' guide is available: teachersGuide.docx.

We also provide an Excel version of the basic SIR model for comparison: SIR.xls.

The generic starting page for students is here.


Agent-based modelling pages and materials were developed by Andy Evans, who would be glad of comments and is happy to answer queries.

The Excel SIR model and associated materials were developed by Alison Heppenstall.