How a 19th-century typhus outbreak helped doctors fight the coronavirus and other pandemics

screenshot how the coronavirus mimics philadelphia’s plague face face africa

It was a truism among 19th-century physicians that, in the words of German epidemiologist August Hirsch, “[t]he history of typhus … is the history of human misery.” …  An 1836 outbreak of typhus in Philadelphia led to important changes in how physicians understood the disease, with important lessons for epidemiology in the age of COVID-19.

During the 1800s in the United States doctors had relatively few chances to witness true epidemic typhus firsthand, and historical references to “typhus” could refer to any number of afflictions, further muddying the historical record of how pervasive the disease was.

In departing from the common wisdom of his era, [American doctor William Wood] Gerhard attributed the spread of disease to physical proximity rather than moral corruption, laying the groundwork for new approaches to epidemiology.

Related article:  Thinking like mom: Fatherhood makes male brains more maternal

Gerhard and his colleagues did not know that typhus spreads through body lice, but they recognized anecdotally that proximity to patients put them at risk of contracting the disease. …

“Social distancing” as a phrase did not exist in Gerhard’s time, but the concept was well-established. For centuries, leper colonies and lazarettos had sequestered bodies and cargos suspected of carrying disease. …Gerhard’s somewhat more expansive definition of contagion, which included transmission through bodily fluids like sweat, alerted him to the potential dangers of being in close proximity with someone suffering from typhus.

Read the original post

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Genetics Unzipped
Infographic: How dangerous COVID mutant strains develop

Infographic: How dangerous COVID mutant strains develop

Sometime in 2019, probably in China, SARS CoV-2 figured out a way to interact with a specific "spike" on the ...

Philip Njemanze: Leading African anti-GMO activist claims Gates Foundation destroying Nigeria

Nigerian anti-GMO activist, physician, and inventor pushes anti-gay and anti-GMO ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend