Tag Archives: Infectious Diseases

Use of masks to control the spread of infection: more than a century of confusion

Jayant Radhakrishnan Darien, Illinois, United States   The above photograph is from the archives of the Cook County Hospital when it closed. It was taken in the surgical amphitheater in the main building. The year is not known. The photograph demonstrates an operation being carried out by masked and gowned surgeons and the scrub nurse […]

Faith and patron saints during the Black Death

Mariella Scerri Mellieha, Malta   Saint Roch. 1502. Francesco Francia.  Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public Domain.  The Black Death of 1348 was the greatest biomedical disaster in European history. Although it was not the first plague epidemic, the Black Death swept through Europe, killing millions indiscriminately and affecting society like no other natural calamity.1 Attempts to understand the […]

The Schoolhouse Lab

Edward McSweegan Kingston, Rhode Island, United States   Howard T. Ricketts in Mexico City laboratory. National Library of Medicine “Black measles” was a common name for spotted fever, which regularly killed people in the western United States. Symptoms included a spotty rash on the extremities, fever, chills, headache, and photophobia. No one knew what caused […]

How a small town kept smallpox small

Annabelle Slingerland Leiden, the Netherlands   Fig. 1 Presentation of smallpox. To make a mountain out of a molehill is a vice, but to keep the mole underground is a virtue. The little town of Tilburg in the south of the Netherlands was not accustomed to seeing mountains, but when a molehill first came into […]

A plastic surgeon’s weeks in lockdown

Neha Chauhan Bangalore, Karnataka, India   As I tuned in to the announcement on March 24th, 2020 that India would be completely locked down for next three weeks to flatten the curve of coronavirus spread, my heart skipped a beat and then almost sank. I spent a sleepless night trying to understand my reaction of […]

How conflict and bureaucracy delayed the elimination of yellow fever

Edward McSweegan Kingston, Rhode Island, United States   Army Surgeon General George Miller Sternberg, Wikimedia The Golden Age of Bacteriology (1876-1906) saw the emergence of techniques to cultivate bacterial pathogens and develop vaccines and anti-toxin therapies against them. The new bacteriologists rapidly identified the agents causing anthrax, gonorrhea, typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera, tetanus, diphtheria, plague, and […]

Ebola on this side

Elisabeth Preston-Hsu Atlanta, Georgia, United States   “Ebola in the Dark.” Drawing by Elisabeth Preston-Hsu, 2019, private collection In September 2014, my husband Chris boarded a plane from Atlanta, Georgia for the Democratic Republic of Congo, his first trip to Africa for work. We had just moved back to Atlanta two months before when he […]

Quinine and the cinchona plant: gain or bane for Africa?

Lom Bryan-Bill Ning Bamenda, Republic of Cameroon   Slave Market. Frederic Remington. 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago. “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all doctors in the Empire.”1 This statement by Winston Churchill referred to the bitter-tasting substance in tonic water, quinine. This antimalarial alkaloid did save lives, […]

Philadelphia’s plague

Hayat El Boukari Tetouan, Morocco Four plates showing the development of yellow fever. From the title: Observations sur la fièvre jaune, faites à Cadix, en 1819 / par MM. Pariset et Mazet. Authors: Etienne Pariset (1770-1847) and André Mazet (1793-1821). Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0. A narrative of the proceedings of the black people, […]

The forgotten many of the Guatemalan Syphilis Experiments

Harsh Patolia Roanoke, Virginia, USA   Inoculation site of participant. Image from the Records of Dr. John C. Cutler housed in the National Archives. In 2005, medical historian Dr. Susan Reverby foraged through boxes in the stuffy archives of the library of the University of Pittsburgh for the papers of Thomas Parran, the surgeon general […]