Plagues: an inevitable consequence of civilization

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

Source: © Royal Society of Chemistry

A quick tour of plagues through history

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We humans, particularly in America, perseverate on diseases of individuals: heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc. All of us have had family members and friends who have died from these afflictions. But these diseases, as devastating as they can be when they involve family and friends, take away only individuals.Infectious diseases, plagues, can take out civilizations. Yet, ironically, plagues are an inevitable consequence of civilization. The word civilization is derived from the Latin civitas meaning city, and it is this characteristic of civilization that marks the process whereby humans came to live close together in significant numbers. Since plagues require enough vulnerable people collected in one location for the germ to spread and cause its attendant devastation, civilization has provided the substrate of vulnerable people needed to nourish a contagion.