Tag Archives: infectious disease

COVID-19 and 1665: learning from Daniel Defoe

Brian Birch Southampton, Hampshire, UK   London plague victims being buried in 1665, one of nine scenes from John Dunstall’s Plague broadsheet (1666). Credit: Wellcome Collection.  (CC BY 4.0) Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year is an account of the 1665 Great Plague of London. Based on eyewitness experience, the undersigned initials “H. F.” […]

The history of quarantine and contact tracing as surveillance strategies

Mariella Scerri Victor Grech Malta   A view of the city of Malta, on the side of the Lazaretto or pest-house, where ships perform quarantine, by Joseph Goupy, around 1740-1760. Public Domain. Source. Quarantine, from the Italian quaranta, meaning forty, is a centuries-old public health measure instituted to control the spread of infectious diseases by […]

The germ of laziness

Enrique Chaves-Carballo Overland Park, Kansas, United States   Charles Wardell Stiles (1867-1941). Parasitologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Portrait ca. 1912. Wikimedia Commons Rockefeller Foundation The Rockefeller Foundation was chartered on June 1909 “to promote the well-being and to advance the civilization of the peoples of the United States and its territories and possessions and of […]

Oswaldo Cruz and the eradication of infectious diseases in Brazil

Robert Perlman Chicago, Illinois, United States   Photo of buildings on Rue Oswaldo-Cruz, a street in Paris named after the physician. Photo from Wikimedia by user CVB. CC BY-SA 4.0 In 1899, an epidemic of bubonic plague caused a crisis in the Brazilian port city of Santos. Ship captains were angry that their boats had […]

Ancient Greek plague and coronavirus

Patrick Bell Belfast, Northern Ireland   Plague in an Ancient City by Michael Sweerts, ca 1650. Credit Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Introduction Homer’s Iliad, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War have been termed “the three earliest, and arguably most influential, representations of the plague in Western narrative.”1 This […]

To wear or not to wear? Attitudes towards mask wearing then and now

Mariella Scerri Victor Grech Mellieha, Malta   In September 1918, the Red Cross recommended two-layer gauze masks to halt the spread of “plague.” Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia. More than a century ago, as the 1918 influenza pandemic raged around the globe, masks of gauze and cheesecloth became the facial frontlines in the battle against […]

Mortality data, risk probability, and the psychology of assent in the enlightenment smallpox debate

David Spadafora Pinehurst, North Carolina   Nicolas de Largillière, Portrait of Voltaire, ca. 1724. Source. The present health crisis is hardly the first to provoke significant controversy about preventing and treating widespread disease. Debate over epidemic-related data, its reliability, and its uses has a long history. So does concern about the psychological elements involved in […]

Milwaukee’s unlikely public health advocate

Lea Dacy Rochester, MN, United States   Upper left: The author’s mother, Rita Troiano, a year or so after the incident at the Sunflower Inn; Lower left: the author’s grandparents, Philip and Evelyn Troiano, ca. 1928, both from the author’s personal collection. Right: Helen Cromwell at the Sunflower Inn, Feral House Publishing, used with permission. […]

The men who defeated syphilis

German zoologist Fritz Schaudinn. Source Fritz Schaudinns, Verlag Leopold Voss, Hamburg und Leipzig 1911. Via Wikimedia. Beginnings The origins of syphilis have been subject to much debate. The disease has been claimed to be thousands of years old and originally to have evolved from yaws. Generally mistaken for leprosy and not recognized as a separate entity, […]

Sir Patrick Manson—“Father of Tropical Medicine”

Patrick Manson (1844–1922) was born in Aberdeenshire, qualified in medicine from the University of Aberdeen in 1866, and joined the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service as a medical officer with private practice allowed. He developed a successful and profitable general practice in Amoy and Taiwan, and was unusual in possessing a microscope. Keeping this near […]