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Germ Scene Investigation conducted at 4-H Annual Conference

Some of the Iowa 4-Hers attending the Annual Conference on Iowa State University campus conducted an investigation of a reported Norovirus outbreak in the Science building. 

This Germ Scene Investigation (GSI) was led by HRIM Extension Specialist Catherine Strohbehn and AESHM faculty Lakshman Rajagopal. The GSI activity offered the students a chance to determine, based on the evidence they collected, how an outbreak of Norovirus might have spread through the ISU campus, and to provide suggestions on how future incidents could be prevented.

The 4-Hers worked in teams to listen to an initial briefing based on “reports” of student illnesses (what symptoms they were experiencing,  where they had been, and what they had touched) and collected data from the identified locations. Two restrooms were used as the germ scenes. These were marked with yellow crime scene tape to protect the evidence, which was a fluorescent “glo-germ” lotion applied to restroom door handles, toilet flush handles, handwashing sink faucets, and towel dispensers, as well as the water fountains. When viewed under a fluorescent flashlight, the lotion was illuminated, thus identifying what the infected person had touched. 4-Hers’ ‘gloved up’ to investigate with the special flash lights and record findings of location and temperature.

Germ Scene Investigation

After a debriefing, the 4-Hers presented a press conference detailing progress with the investigation. The other team posed questions. 4-Hers attending these sessions exhibited critical thinking and communication skills.