Outbreaks: From Epidemics to Pandemics
Can you believe it? A hundred thousand U.S. dead and counting. The real number according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert, is “almost certainly higher.” A World Health Organization official warns that the coronavirus may become endemic, i.e., like HIV, “it may never go away.” Science writer and author Sonia Shah states, “Over the past fifty years, more than three hundred infectious pathogens have either emerged or reemerged, appearing in places where they’ve never been seen before.” Years before the sudden arrival of COVID-19, ninety percent of epidemiologists predicted that one of them would cause a deadly pandemic sometime in the next two generations. Unfortunately, they were right. By examining the stories of pandemics past we can begin to better understand our own future, and to prepare for what it holds in store.
Sonia Shah is a science journalist. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Scientific American. She is the author of The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond and The Next Great Migration.