Thursday, April 30, 2009


From Scientists dig for lessons from past pandemics

Markel and colleagues examined 43 cities and found that so-called nonpharmaceutical interventions -- steps such as quarantines and school closings -- were remarkably successful in tamping down the outbreak. "They don't make the population immune, but they buy you time, either by preventing influenza from getting into the community or slowing down the spread," Markel told CNN

If it seems odd to base medical strategy on 90-year-old newspapers, the approach is increasingly popular. "There's a big case for looking at history," says Simonson. "We call it archaeo-epidemiology. You go to libraries and places like that, dig around, collaborate with people like John Barry and try to quantify what really worked."

Barry is the author of "The Great Influenza," perhaps the signature history of the devastating 1918 pandemic. He says the historical record shows that isolating patients worked to slow the spread of flu in 1918, but that attempted quarantines -- preventing movement in and out of cities -- was "worthless."


James Hanley said...

Hmm, who would have thought that history could be useful?

Scott Hanley said...

Warning! That's the sort of attitude that will get you banned here!

pfanderson said...

Ummm, would you mind terribly if I reblog this elsewhere with a hat-tip to you? Good good stuff, thanks for the find!

anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anna said...

My perspective is also sort of a historical one in that I remember Professor Markel from a good number of years ago when he was a University of Michigan pediatrician concentrating on history of epidemics of previous centuries. And then, when he went on leave and started writing from his post at the NYPL, he sort of came forth into this century and posted information about more modern (and theoretically more relevant?) disorders. And now--the old and the new have merged, and he can make good use of all of his expertise, pulling together both the past and the present.
Addendum: I deleted the comment because I noted a typo the minute it was posted. :)