Pestilence, Pandemics and Contagion continue to shape human history

Check out this excellent interview with Yale history of medicine professor Dr. Frank Snowden about pandemics, which have stopped and started wars, shifted political power balance, exposed inequalities and inadequacies to protect citizens, as well as bringing out the best in us: enormous bravery and sacrifice for the good of all.

”Spanish” flu and many other varieties of corona viruses, cholera, smallpox, tuberculosis, the bubonic plague all left an indelible mark on human society.  A children’s ditty from the era of the plague will be familiar to many:

Ring around a rosy: The round reddish rashes or “buboes” were a mark of being infected by Yersinia pestis, a non-spore bacteria carried by rat fleas. The Black Plague, aka Bubonic Plague, started in China and was transported by trade ships to the port of Messina, striking Europe in the mid 1300s, and killing nearly half of those populations.

Pocket full of posy: People of the time would carry with them various herbs and flowers to try to ward off the disease.  Medicinal herbs were the predominant remedies globally until about 70 years ago.  They are still used effectively and safely all over the world.  Of course pharmaceuticals shine in emergency situations.  The best bet is always to stay healthy.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!  No further explanation needed on this stanza.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which is at least 3,000, if not 5,000 years old had a  well documented preventive strategy for microbial  contagions when citizens needed to be out and about: Place a peeled raw garlic clove into each nostril. The idea is that the spicy active anti-microbial, volatile oil ingredient in garlic (allicin) could neutralize the virus in aerosol droplets on contact.  I’m not guaranteeing this will kill COVID-19 for sure, but it probably would.  96% of the population today will get mild disease.  If you don’t wanna stick garlic up your nose, eat it daily, baked or chopped raw in savory meals.  Baked garlic dipped in honey is a nice treat for kids!