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Genetic Linkage

A Brief History of Plagues and Pandemics: From the Black Death to COVID-19

Daily life in the age of coronavirus has affected us in different ways. For science writers, it means that many of the physicians and scientists we would in normal times talk to are too busy saving lives. At the same time, the science and medical journals are spewing articles faster than we can keep up, peer review necessarily delayed.


For the first half of March, I wrote breaking news articles and quickly burnt out. No one was giving interviews as the publication cycle continually compressed, sometimes doubling back to correct errors as new information flooded in.


And then the webinars began, some for media, some for physicians. I've been doing as many as I can, from government agencies, patient advocacy groups, and the journals. This is my sixteenth piece on the novel coronavirus, thanks largely to these constant updates from the experts. My favorite webinar series is the Live Stream Q&A sessions from The Journal of the American Medical Association's editor-in-chief Howard Bauchner, MD.


I especially liked the webcast on April 2 with Frank Snowden, PhD, professor emeritus of history of medicine at Yale and the author of Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, published fortuitously this past fall. Listening to him reminded me of my favorite books about plagues and pandemics, which I'll list at the end.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, who needs no introduction with his face plastered on tee shirts and donuts (I've joined his Facebook fan club), does the JAMA webinar regularly, most recently on April 8. So I'm going to pretend that both gentlemen are sitting here with me and my cats in my living room, briefing me on the past and future of COVID-19, and how it fits into the grand sweep of epidemiology.


To continue reading go to my DNA Science blog at Public Library of Science, where this post first appeared.

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