Human response to pandemics in history and medico-anthropological correlates

The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Future: Virology, Epidemiology, Translational Toxicology and Therapeutics

Source: © Royal Society of Chemistry

Pandemics tend to be looked at through the lens of public health with less attention given to cultural and religious aspects. Incorporating these can help ensure an optimal response.

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In a long succession throughout history, pandemic outbreaks have decimated societies, determined outcomes of wars, wiped out entire populations, but also, paradoxically, cleared the way for innovations and advances in sciences (including medicine and public health), economy, and political systems. Pandemic outbreaks, or plagues, as they are often referred to, have been closely examined through the lens of humanities in the realm of history, including the history of medicine. In the era of modern humanities, however, fairly little attention has been given to ways plagues affected the individual and group psychology of afflicted societies. This includes the unexamined ways pandemic outbreaks might have shaped the specialty of psychiatry; indeed, psychoanalysis was gaining recognition as an established treatment within medical community at the time the last great pandemic (before the current COVID-19) was making global rounds a century ago.