Before we knew about germ theory and the microorganisms that caused disease, the illnesses that afflicted millions were mysteries. They acquired names that described their symptoms, their effect on behavior, or on the sheer numbers of people they killed. Without knowing anything about causes, treatment, or prevention, our ancestors feared “the wasting disease,” saw friends and relatives fall victim to “bilious fever,” and cared for loved ones stricken with “child bed fever,” “yellow jacket,” or “dysentery.”
Today is International Women's Day, a day celebrating women's achievements and bringing attention to gender parity in the workforce. In different forms, it has been observed since the early 1900s, with the first major event being a march in New York City in 1908 calling for better pay and voting rights for women. In 1977, the United Nations adopted a resolution for member nations to celebrate women's rights and achievements on a day of their choice, and started setting an annual theme in 1996. In the United States, March was named Women's History Month in 2011 by President Barak Obama. In honor of today's celebrations and calls for action, today's post will explore the issues of gender parity in healthcare professions.
Pasteurization. Gram stains. Petri dishes. Bunsen burners. The science world is replete with processes or equipment named for their esteemed inventors. One such invention, Mueller-Hinton agar, is a growth medium critical to susceptibility testing of antibiotics. In today's post, we'll look at one half of the scientific team who co-developed this important medium, Dr. Jane Hinton.
Less than a century ago, in a world without antibiotics and limited treatments for infections, the leading causes of death were infections - pneumonia or flu, followed closely by tuberculosis and gastrointestinal infections. Everyone knew someone who had died from one of these infections, and most families had experienced the tragedy of losing at least one young child to infection. No one was spared this very human experience, not even United States presidents. In today's post, as we learn about how pathogens impacted the lives of our presidents, we'll get a better picture of just how pernicious infections were just a short time ago.
As Black History Month begins, we want to take some time to celebrate the countless contributions by African-American physicians, scientists, researchers and advocates in the world of infection control and prevention. In today's post, we'll highlight 5 leaders who made a enormous scientific contributions to the field.
There is really no way to overstate the importance of Girolamo Fracastoro's bold proposal about the roots of infection. His idea that infections were caused by "seeds," living things unseen to the naked eye, was followed by deductions that included the spread of contagion, incubation periods, the organs affected by particular infectious agents, the vulnerable age for a particular disease, the idea that a survivor of an infection is protected against future infections, the ability of a disease to pass from mother to child through nursing, and many other valuable observations. His genius, while respected and supported, was not definitively proven until over 100 years later, with the advent of the microscope.
We take for granted the knowledge that infection is caused by microscopic organisms. But the road to this scientific truth has been long and winding, and medical professionals have taken some pretty odd detours along the way. Hindsight being 20/20, we can examine this path and see the seeds - or germs - of germ theory as we know it today.
We live in a time of tremendous advancements in science and medicine. We can save premature babies, reattach severed limbs (how about heads?), and research looks promising to wipe out some pretty terrifying diseases. And yet even recently, humanity still believed some pretty crazy things about where diseases come from... and each of them share haunting similarities to some beliefs we encounter today.
Last week, we began our comparison of how New York City responded to a global pandemic a century apart. This week, we continue the comparison, this time looking at how schools, families, and Broadway balanced economic and health pressures, two essential concerts that were often at odds.