1887

Chapter 1 : The Nature of Plagues

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Abstract:

This chapter chronicles the recurrent eruptions of plagues that marked the past, influence the present, and surely threaten our future. The particular occurrence of a severe and debilitating outbreak of disease may be unanticipated and unforeseen, but despite the lack of predictability, there is a certainty: dangerous “new” diseases will occur. Parasitism is the intimate association of two different kinds of organisms (species) wherein one benefits (the parasite) at the expense of the other (the host), and as a consequence of this, parasites often harm their hosts. When a malaria-infected mosquito feeds, it injects with its saliva perhaps a dozen of the thousands of parasites that are present in its salivary glands. Measles, caused by a virus, provides an almost ideal pattern for studying the spread of a disease in a community. The virus is transmitted through the air as a fine mist released through coughing, sneezing, and talking. One of the reasons that measles may disappear from a community is immunity that may be the result of natural recovery from an infection or immunization. The spread of infection from an infected individual through the community can be thought of as a process of diffusion whereby the motions of the individuals are random and movement is from a higher concentration to a lower one.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Nature of Plagues, p 1-21. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch1
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Figure 1.1

Woman with Child, by Pablo Picasso, 1903. © 2005 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Nature of Plagues, p 1-21. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch1
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Image of Figure 1.2
Figure 1.2

A catalog of microparasites. (A) Cold sore virus, as seen with the transmission electron microscope. (B) Three kinds of bacteria—spherical (coccus), rod shaped (bacillus), and corkscrew (spirillum or spirochete)—as seen with the scanning electron microscope. (C) Trypanosome (ribbon-like organism) among red blood cells, as seen by the scanning electron microscope. (D) Using a scanning electron microscope it can be seen that Giardia easily fits through the eye of a needle. (Panels A, B, and D courtesy of Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc. Panel C courtesy of Eye of Science/Photo Researchers, Inc. © 2005 Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Nature of Plagues, p 1-21. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch1
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Image of Figure 1.3
Figure 1.3

A catalog of macroparasites. (A) The head of a tapeworm (a flatworm); (B) the hookworm (a roundworm); (C) flea; (D) fly; (E) tick; and (F) mosquito. All seen through the scanning electron microscope. (Courtesy of Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Nature of Plagues, p 1-21. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch1
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Image of Figure 1.4
Figure 1.4

The Plague of Ashod by Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). Poussin's painting is probably that of bubonic plague since rats are shown on the plinth. (Courtesy of Corbis.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Nature of Plagues, p 1-21. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch1
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Figure 1.5

Types of epidemics. The plots show the incidence or numbers of cases of measles for three different sizes of populations from 1942 to 1952. (A) In type I, the peaks in the number of cases are regular, and there are always cases (endemicity) and no fadeouts. The population size is 3.4 million. (B) In type II, there are regular outbreaks (peaks in the number of cases), no endemicity, and fadeouts (shown by dots). This occurs with a population size of 300,000. (C) In type III, with a population size of 10,000, there are irregular outbreaks with long fadeouts occurring between the peaks. (Courtesy of Matthew Keeling.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Nature of Plagues, p 1-21. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch1
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