Penn State researchers co-author book teaching 'Skills to Obstruct Pandemics'

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team led by Penn State faculty and students, along with expert collaborators, has co-authored a guide that teaches the essential knowledge and skills to help interrupt the transmission of COVID-19 and other infections.

“Skills to Obstruct Pandemics (STOP): How to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19 and similar infections," published by Sunbury Press, is a comprehensive tutorial on infections and how viruses spread. The book provides detailed guidelines that people can follow to protect themselves and others to help reduce the transmission of respiratory pathogens, as well as tips to make the tasks easier, said the authors.

“This book could help decrease your chances of catching infections based on understanding how they are transferred,” said Frank Ritter, professor of information sciences and technology and corresponding author of the book. “(It) helps by teaching you how to separate yourself from infectious material and how to protect people around you if you might be or are infectious.”

Through a series of informational sections and quizzes, readers can learn to identify situations that put them at risk; practice making the right decisions; and obtain knowledge of other related skills to help reduce the spread of infections from COVID-19, the flu, and other respiratory diseases. The book covers topics including basic disease theory and public health concepts such as herd immunity, social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, and the proper methods of handwashing.

“One interesting thing that we’re trying to introduce is that it’s a zeroth-aid book,” said Ritter, using a new term the book introduces. “It’s not a ‘first’ aid book. It’s a pre-first aid book. First aid is treatment, this is prevention."

While the publication of "STOP" was motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the book will be useful in the future as it teaches basic, reusable knowledge about how to reduce several different infections, said the researchers.

“Pandemics are likely to repeat for some time in our increasingly interconnected world,” Ritter said. “Stopping pandemics depends on all of us to make changes to stop the spread of diseases that are coming and that are here.”

STOP is based on a free online tutor, available at, also created by Ritter and a team at Penn State.

In addition to Ritter, other Penn State authors include Amanda Clase, associate professor at Applied Research Laboratory; Martin K.-C. Yeh, assistant professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State Brandywine; Renuka Joseph, doctoral candidate at the Huck Institute of Life Sciences; Jacob Oury, doctoral candidate of information sciences and technology; Ed Glantz, teaching professor of information sciences and technology; and Alexis Fenstermacher, a 2020 graduate of the College of Nursing who is now a registered nurse at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.

Additional co-authors include Stephanie Harvill, consulting visual information design specialist; Jeffrey Oury, resident physician at West Virginia School of Medicine; Mathieu Brener, consulting engineer who earned a doctorate in nuclear engineering from Penn State; and James J. James, executive director of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health — where a portion of the proceeds will be donated.


Jessica Hallman

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