The Forbidding Little Adriatic Island Where Quarantine Began

From Its 14th-Century Roots, the Ritual of Self-Isolation During Plagues Offers Insights on Our Current Situation

The island of Mrkan, one of over a thousand islands off the Dalmatian coast, is both idyllic and grim. Its precipitous pale cliffs, set against the turquoise Adriatic Sea, make it look like an impenetrable fortress. Indeed, a few centuries ago, it was a place to dread. It was where you waited to see whether you would die.

The Black Death hit Europe from 1346 to 1353 and gave us the word “quarantine.” Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik, Croatia) was the first city known to establish quarantine for all ships wishing to land …

A Letter From Sacramento, Where Fear Grows as Flowers Bloom | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A Letter From Sacramento, Where Fear Grows as Flowers Bloom

A Survivor of 1954’s Polio Epidemic Welcomes Social Distancers to His Garden

SACRAMENTO—Our front garden hit peak bloom just as the COVID-19 death toll passed 200 in California. As usual, the California golden poppies seized control of the gravel borders along the …

Stop Blaming Bats for This Pandemic | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Stop Blaming Bats for This Pandemic

Misguided Fears of These Flying Mammals Distract From the Real Reasons New Viruses Can Lead to Epidemics

It has been a bad decade for bats. Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, they were already in severe decline worldwide. Now, they are blamed as the culprits behind one …

Leprosy Demonstrates How Fears of Disease Spread—and Then Live Forever | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Leprosy Demonstrates How Fears of Disease Spread—and Then Live Forever

From Hawai‘i to China to Europe, This Ancient Malady Has Long Been a Magnet for Wider Political and Cultural Anxieties

What is it, exactly? How do you catch it? How do you diagnose it? How do you treat it? Can it be cured? If not, how do you manage it? …

What Our Gargantuan Appetite for Meat Says About America

It Symbolizes Affluence and Social Status, Showcases Regional Differences, and Reveals Shifting Attitudes Toward Health

Americans have always been distinguished by their love of meat. Where does that love come from?

One short answer: our ethnic heritage. Among whites, the English and Germans were two of …

To End Infectious Disease, We Must Cure Our Societal Ills

Wars, Politics, and the Anti-Vaccine Movement Plague Global Efforts to Stop Epidemics

It once was stated that “man’s weakness is not achieving victories, but in taking advantage of them.” Indeed, this is the case for global infection control. Throughout history we have …