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A note to my followers. I've been seeing & hearing in the people I follow a new tone the past couple of days. "Dread" seems to sum it up best. Since hugging everyone is not now advisable, I wanted to share some thoughts on what is giving me a sense of calm right now. 1/n
I'm a historian, which means it's my job to step outside any historical context & see the "big picture." The big picture I see can be summed up as follows: 1) we knew this was coming; 2) many are behaving as we expected them to behave. The question remains: Now what do we do? 2/n
Saying "We knew this was coming" isn't meant as an "I told you so!" accusation. Rather, it means that lots of really smart people have been thinking about the issue of emerging infectious diseases for several decades. A History read that might offer comfort right now is this: 3/n
Frank M. Snowden, “Emerging and Reemerging Diseases: A Historical Perspective,” Immunological Reviews 225 (2008), 9–26. My own work in Global Health History is precisely a result of this change in thinking about infectious diseases. Ebola (discovered in 1976) & HIV/AIDS ... 4/n
... (1st described clinically in 1981, but likely circulating in human populations since about 1920) were the sentinels, the canaries in the coalmine that told us that Nature wasn't done w/ us yet. That a biological world that had brought us malaria, smallpox, plague, ... 5/n
... yellow fever, cholera, syphilis (the list is extensive!), that biological world wasn't done coming up w/ new combinations of genes & microorganisms that could potentially do us harm. Indeed, there's no reason to think it will ever stop. "That's life!," as they say. 6/n
And at the same time Nature carries on in her merry way, creating new life forms, we as humans have carried on doing what we do: engaging with our environment, looking for new types of food or new ways of producing it, traveling, loving. You know, being human. But we've ... 7/n
... done all this at a much faster pace, w/ greater interconnectedness. My father was an airline pilot, so I've always recognized the ways modern commercial aviation has changed our world. The disease modelers started to see how much that new speed would affect disease ... 8/n
... transmission. Here's one among many dozens of pieces that captures that shift in thinking: Andrew J. Tatem, "Modern day population, pathogen and pest dispersals" (2017), cambridge.org/core/books/hum…. I was at that 2013 conference where Tatem presented. It was an assembly of .. 9/n
... anthropologists, archaeologists, molecular geneticists, & two disease historians, myself & Jim Webb (specialist on malaria & intestinal diseases). And I'm sure many other such gatherings of epidemiologists, etc., have occurred the past couple of decades. @BillGates & ... 10/n
... others have been sounding the alarm about a potential new age of pandemics for some time. This piece by @edyong209 captures many concerns: theatlantic.com/magazine/archi…. (Though see also, for example, @marynmck on antibiotic resistance: gq.com/story/antibiot…). So why ... 11/n
.. do all these facts give me a sense of calm right now (rather than panic at seeing their predictions come true)? It is because we have a tremendous learned workforce already prepared to engage with the demands of thinking through our present crisis. We have anthropologists 12/n
.. who jumped into action in thinking about the cultural dimensions of what we're facing now: somatosphere.net/2020/covid-19-…. We have virologists who are drawing on collaborative networks to bring up daily updates on how the disease is spreading: nextstrain.org/ncov. We have .. 13/n
... all our public health & global health networks working at local, regional, & international levels to share data, news, equipment, supplies. Now, as I said, the other thing that gives me a sense of calm (and that I hope will give others a sense of purpose in the days ... 14/n
... & weeks ahead) is that those in positions of power are behaving pretty much as we would have expected them to. Tony Fauci (whose proven his mettle time & time again since the early days of AIDS: nytimes.com/2020/03/08/hea…) is the voice of reason we need. But look what .. 15/n
... else is going on around him. We know what's right & wrong right now. We know what differentiates self-interest from compassion. We know what to do. The question is to do it w/ conviction. So #WashYourHands #FlattenTheCurve Support healthcare workers. Vote. Find beauty. 16/end
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