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Infectious Diseases

Author(s): Christine Herrmann, PhD

Infectious Diseases Throughout History

Infectious diseases probably have always afflicted humans. Numerous ancient writings describe recognizable infectious diseases that are still with us today. Through the centuries, these diseases have resulted in significant losses of human life. The scope of human death has at times influenced history; it is thought that the 1918 flu epidemic played a contributing role in ending World War I. 

In modern times, improved sanitation and the development of vaccines and antibiotics have saved many lives. However, despite advances in technology, success in eradicating smallpox, and virtually eliminating many other diseases in developed countries, new and old infectious diseases continue to plaque humans. This is clearly evidenced by the HIV epidemic and the looming potential threat of another influenza pandemic. Sadly, even though we have the technology and vaccines to prevent disease, especially childhood illnesses, these advances are not accessible to many of the children in the developing world. Nearly 1.5 million children continue to die of measles each year for lack of a vaccine that costs less than 12 cents per dose.