Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: epidemics

  • Epidemics: The deadly foes of humanity

    There was a time when humans may have solely attributed their illnesses to powers that could turn rivers into blood, kill firstborns, unleash swarms of frogs, lice, flies, and locusts (Exodus 7-10), cause contagious skin diseases (Leviticus 13:2-33), or send hideous, dangerous serpents to kill evildoers (Numbers 21:5-9).1 But in the relatively brief time of…

  • Review: The History of the World in 100 Pandemics, Plagues and Epidemics

    Arpan BanerjeeSolihull, United Kingdom The publication of this book could not have been better timed. The book sets out to show how pandemics, epidemics, and infectious diseases have shaped human history over the last 5,000 years. Its contents help us place the current COVID-19 epidemic in its rightful historical context. Famine, war, and pestilence have…

  • The wonderful world of vaccines

    Jayant RadhakrishnanChicago, Illinois, United States Epidemics and pandemics became an issue about 10,000 years ago when hunters and gatherers became farmers and began to live in communities. Smallpox was one of the first lethal infections that spread widely. Its stigmata are seen in Egyptian mummies dating to 1570-1085 BCE. By 1500 CE, in China, India,…

  • What does the zoonotic origin of COVID-19 teach us about preventing future pandemics?

    James A. Marcum Waco, Texas, United States The history of medicine reveals that epidemics and pandemics have plagued humanity throughout the centuries.1 Examples include the Antonine plague (165-180 A.D.), the Justinian plague (541-542 A.D.), the Black Death (1347-1351 A.D.), pandemics such as the Spanish flu (1918-1919) and the Asian flu (1957-1958), and now the COVID-19 pandemic.…

  • Plague epidemics and the evolution of language in England

    Andrew P. K. Wodrich Washington, DC, United States   Pierart dou Tielt’s illustration depicts the mortal toll of the Black Death in a Belgian town circa 1353. Similarly, the plague decimated the population of England, spurring the change from French to English as the country’s dominant spoken language. Via Wikimedia Commons here.  Epidemics have had a profound impact…

  • Epidemic encephalitis lethargica

    JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom Table 1. QUARANTINABLE DISEASES Cholera Diphtheria Infectious tuberculosis Plague Smallpox Yellow fever Viral hemorrhagic fevers Severe acute respiratory syndromes Influenza pandemic From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Legal authorities for isolation and quarantine. Source The pandemic Covid-19 infection, first reported from China in December 2019, reminds us of…

  • “Scarlet letters” — The depiction of scarlet fever in literature

    Emily BoyleDublin, Ireland Scarlet fever, named for the erythematous skin rash that may accompany streptococcal infections (Fig 1), is often considered a disease of Victorian times. Associated with high levels of morbidity and mortality (up to 25%) when epidemics were common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe and the US,1,2 it is seen less…

  • COVID-19 and Malta’s Black Plague epidemic of 1813

    Victor GrechPembroke, Malta Malta in the British Empire In the nineteenth century Malta had a population of around 91,000 people and was governed by the British Empire. Despite its small size and absence of natural resources, the island was an important Mediterranean crossroads, with a vital natural harbor and a crucial military base. Malta had…

  • The 1918 Pandemic—the collective story versus the personal narrative

    Mariella ScerriMellieha, Malta Stalin’s claim that a “single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”1 reverberates at a time when the world is gripped by fear as it tries to come to terms with a pandemic caused by the latest novel coronavirus, SARS-COV-2. Throughout history, humanity has had to contend with new…