Pandemics are not new.
COVID-19 is unique, or NOVEL, because it is an animal disease that mutated to affect humans. But diseases with widespread impact are not new.
Plagues and pandemics have been a bane of mankind. Notably, the Black Death repeatedly wiped out a third of Europe’s population. Spanish Influenza, coming on the heels of World War I, killed tens of millions of people worldwide.
Smallpox afflicted the human race from ancient Egypt until it was declared eradicated in 1980. In the Eighteenth Century it was prevalent in Europe, but unknown in the Americas…until European settlers showed up. Because there was no group or individual immunity, once introduced, smallpox devastated American Indian communities. By the time of the American War for Independence the Iroquois had sustained significant losses due to disease, making them even less able to absorb losses in battle.
Compared to these other pandemics and epidemics, in 2020 we have many advantages. Science and medicine have come a long way: we are taking the measures necessary to slow the spread and expand capacity to treat those most severely affected. Critically, we see people coming together and finding ways to support one another. We are rising to the occasion, and we will endure.
In the meantime, I encourage people to use this time to reflect, to learn, and find creative ways to connect. And, of course, do some reading!
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