History repeats itself again and again

COVID-19's spread throughout the USA is like not only the 1918 flu. North America's infectious disease history traces back to Columbus - or beyond.

As the nation celebrates Indigenous People’s Day (aka Columbus Day,) this is a good time to look at the actual history. While Columbus took “riches” from North America back to his sponsors in Spain, he delivered European diseases that contributed significantly to millions of Native American deaths. The new infectious diseases included measles, flu, bubonic plague, diphtheria, typhus, cholera, chickenpox and whooping cough. Because they had never been exposed to these pathogens before, Americans had no immunity to them. For a detailed look at how measles spread, this 2019 article from the Washington Post is worth a read, as is this journal article on which it is based.

Now to our current public health crisis, in which we are seeing hospitalizations increasing along with more new cases, especially in areas where temperatures are dropping and people are spending more time indoors, where COVID-19 risk may be higher.

That’s it for today. Keep washing those hands, giving others space and avoiding gatherings.

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