Tag Archives: infectious disease

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 […]

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 […]