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Historical Contexts Of Pandemic Diseases Can Inform Modern Day Efforts To Address Outbreaks

Los Angeles Times: Was the fall of Rome a biological phenomenon?
Kyle Harper, senior vice president and provost and professor at the University of Oklahoma

“…What we are learning, principally from pathogen genomics, is that the fall of the Roman Empire may have been a biological phenomenon. The most devastating enemy the Romans ever faced was Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes bubonic plague and that has been the agent of three historic pandemics, including the medieval Black Death. … We are not as helpless in the face of infectious disease as past societies. We have germ theory and public health and antibiotic pharmaceuticals at our disposal. But the patterns of history can deepen our sense of the laws that govern civilization. Often, those laws are nature’s laws, not humanity’s. … The threat of pandemic disease deserves to rank among our most rational fears. Perhaps the experience of bygone civilizations can make that warning a little less abstract” (10/15).

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