Epidemiology deals with the incidence, prevention and control of diseases within certain populations. This is not restricted to infectious diseases. In fact, the link between cancer and tobacco use is one of epidemiology's primary concerns. The distinction between epidemiological research and other branches of medicine lies predominantly in its method rather than in its subject matter. Epidemiologists conduct studies on a large-scale, using predominantly human subjects. These studies track their subjects over a long period of time, to see which people contract disease and which ones stay disease-free. The next step is to figure out what factors are common to those who got sick, or those who remained healthy. One focus of epidemiology is on keeping the public informed about how clinical studies actually affect their lives, i.e. what are the risk factors for a disease? What information needs to be distributed in order to make a difference in terms of disease prevalence?

Epidemiology is closely linked to issues about how medical information is represented in the media, and the ethical issues that underlie this representation.

"Epidemiology" is the sixth episode of the second season of the comedy show Community. It combines comedy with aspects of the fantastic, serving as a Halloween episode. It debuted on October 28, 2010. It was not the first Community episode that pushed the boundaries of "realism" (this is supposed to be a show about a Community College study group, after all), and was not the one that went the furthest, but it was an early example of the show's direction towards fanciful and "meta" plots.

It is a "typical" Halloween at Greendale Community College, with a Halloween party in the library. Jeff is Dave Beckham, Britta is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Pierce is Captain Kirk (and, incidentally, George Takei provides opening and closing narration), Troy and Abed are from Aliens, Shirley is (although no one can guess) Glenda the Good Witch and Annie is Little Red Riding Hood. Which gives us a few minutes worth of jokes, but the real plot begins when we find out that Dean Pelton bought discount Taco meat from an Army Surplus Store--- taco meat that turns out to be an experimental biological weapon that causes people to consume it to turn into zombies. Or at least causes people to turn hyperaggressive with the urge to bite others (we are still, after all, keeping a tenuous hold on realism). As most students turn into zombies, the study group barricade and then flee, while getting picked off, one by one, by the zombie horde. Meanwhile, the military has found out that an outbreak of their weapon is occurring, and is preparing to take extreme measures to prevent a disease outbreak.

As this is a comedy show, is there a simple way that the study group can reverse the outbreak before it is too late? And as this is "Community", will the journey there be a metacommentary on storytelling? Of course, to both.

When I first watched Community, I was recovering from Covid-19, and I perhaps wasn't catching as much as I could. It is only upon rewatching that I realized how much texture was put into each episode. I just rewatched this, and it struck me that the entire thing felt like a movie. The directing and cinematography felt more like a movie than a television show. There are ten main characters, and hordes of minor characters, all costumed, all choreographed, and all hitting their beats in a fast moving scenario that is presented as 20 minutes of alternating comedy and horror. And despite the fact that this is a comedy, it does manage to be scary. In fact, in a way, the humor allows the viewer to be drawn in closer. Just when we are absorbed in a moment's patter or metacommentary, something scary happens. This episode, like so many other episodes of Community, manages to walk the line between being an earnest story with real emotional reactions, and a metacommentary on storytelling itself.

Ep`i*de`mi*ol"o*gy (?), n. [Epidemy + -logy.] Med.

That branch of science which treats of epidemics.


© Webster 1913.

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