How Epidemics Shaped Modern Life

Past Public Health Crises Inspired Innovations in Infrastructure, Education, Fundraising and Civic Debate—and Cleaned up Rotting Animal Carcasses From the Streets

At the end of the 19th century, one in seven people around the world had died of tuberculosis, and the disease ranked as the third leading cause of death in the United States. While physicians had begun to accept German physician Robert Koch’s scientific confirmation that TB was caused by bacteria, this understanding was slow to catch on among the general public, and most people gave little attention to the behaviors that contributed to disease transmission. They didn’t understand that things they did could make them sick. In his book, Pulmonary …

My Struggle to Report on Ebola Without Provoking Panic—or Complacency

In West Africa, Journalists Have to Sift Fact from Rumor About Links Between the Deadly Virus and Sex

Most of us think we know what a sexually transmitted disease is: syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, or herpes—all diseases that are spread mainly through sexual contact. But in November 2017, CDC …

Depression Isn’t Just a Global Epidemic. It’s a Silent One.

We Know Very Little About Depression—Except That Talking About It Will Help

Depression is still the illness that dares not speak its name. Taboos persist. Social stigmas endure. Many confounding mysteries remain about exactly what causes depression and how best to treat …

The 1918 Flu Pandemic That Revolutionized Public Health

Mass Death Changed How We Think About Illness, and Government's Role in Treating It

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1918, the world experienced the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death, possibly in the whole of human history. We call that tidal …

How Hospital Rooms Went from Airy Temples to “Inhuman” Machines

Architecture Used to Pamper Patients. Then Designers Began Prizing Efficiency.

In the March 1942 issue of the journal Modern Hospital, Charles F. Neergaard, a prominent New York City hospital design consultant, published a layout for a hospital inpatient department that …

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 …