Tag Archives: infectious disease

The history of polio and cigarettes, and the need for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Daniel Gelfman Indianapolis, Indiana, United States   Polio Vaccine and Fundraising Matchbook. Photograph at the Science History Institute, Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Daniel Gelfman, July 3, 2021. Depicted in this display (Picture 1) at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia are technologic marvels. The first is a box that contained early vials of Dr. Salk’s formalin […]

Peter Panum and the “geography of disease”

Kathryne Dycus Madrid, Spain   Peter Panum. Scan from P. Hansens “Illustreret Dansk Litteraturhistorie”, anden meget forøgede udgave, 2. bind, 1902. Public Domain. Via Wikimedia. In 1846, the Faroe Islands experienced an outbreak of measles, the likes of which had not been seen in sixty-five years. The Danish government called upon a newly graduated physician, […]

The Call of the Wild and COVID-19

Liam Butchart Stony Brook, New York, United States Samantha Rizzo Washington DC, United States   Winter Scene in Moonlight. Henry Farrer. 1869. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought a terrible toll upon all of us and has brought the medical system—and the providers who inhabit it—to its knees. There is a […]

A return to The Plague

Bonnie Salomon Chicago, Illinois, United States   Cover of 1991 edition of The Plague by Albert Camus. For the past fifteen months, I have been reading and returning to Albert Camus’ 1947 novel, The Plague. Chronicling a fictional plague epidemic in Oran, Algeria, the narrator Dr. Rieux tells the saga of a city’s horrific struggle. […]

Boccaccio’s Decameron in the world of the coronavirus pandemic

Mateja Lekic Phoenix, Arizona, United States   A Tale from the Decameron, by John William Waterhouse, 1916. Source. Licensed for Public Use. Giovanni Boccaccio wrote the Decameron after the carnage of the bubonic plague in the late 1340s.1 Caused by the highly virulent bacterium Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague, or Black Death, killed an estimated one quarter […]

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 […]