Scientific Anthology: Epidemics


The term “epidemic" is something heard often in the news, in doctors offices, and in the world around today. However, most of the population do not have an idea of what the medical term means. The Center for Disease Control defines an epidemic as "the occurrence of more cases of disease than expected in a given area or among a specific group of people over a particular period of time."

This anthology will introduce twenty epidemics of the past that had a major impact mankind. From viruses to fatal bacterial strains, these diseases has caused major distress, panic amongst major populations. The and ideas topics of how these diseases were started, vehicles for transmission and how society has responded to the outbreaks will be examined and discussed.

Something that you'll find interesting is how diseases are spread eerily similar. However, the the biotechnological methods of treatment to combat these deadly disease are even more intriguing.

We are going on a Nerdventure! – Dr. Christopher Thompson

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Image courtesy of Shuttershock

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever


Image Courtesy of Contra Costa Health Services

In 1995 there was a large outbreak of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The health systems are poor and the medical staff available is very limited. According to The Journal of Infectious Diseases, the disease was brought into the hospitals of Kikwit and was misdiagnosed by the medical staff. Due to patient-to-patient contact, the virus spread “among the operating room staff who participated in a surgical procedure on a laboratory technician”. Protective equipment was also not available for patients infected due to limiting funding of the hospitals. Due to the lack of media coverage in the area, the outbreak was not publicized, meaning many people were unaware to take precautions.

Many common symptoms of this disease include abdominal pain, diarrhea, dysphagia, dyspnea, headache, nausea and vomiting, epistaxis etc. According to the same paper, this disease was found in African green monkeys. Researches studied them to understand the origin and transmission of the disease. The virus was found in “saliva, feces, and urine…and the respiratory tract of monkeys [have] shown virus replication in type 1 pneumocytes…virions in alveoli and bronchi”. After the original outbreak, the number of cases noted afterwards was primarily found in Africa.

It’s important to see the comparison between having a great health care system and the prevalence of epidemics. Since the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a poor health system the rate of spreading a disease is much higher than a country like the United States that has a great-established health care system. There are many third world countries still in existence today that needs support from developed countries to fight infections and lethal epidemics such as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.
Epidemic Typhus 

epidemic typhus

Image Courtesy of Infection Landscapes

This epidemic is also known as Typhus War Epidemic because of a huge outbreak during “World War II… and in 1997 in Burundi [that] involved more than 40,000 patients”. This information is courtesy of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. In this journal article, “Reemerging Threat of Epidemic Typhus in Algeria”, it discusses a case study of the virus in 2000 that had the potential to cause another outbreak. It was found in a 64-year-old woman in Batna, Algeria. She came into the hospital with symptoms of “fever, asthenia, arthralgia, and headache”. Later on she developed maculopapular skin rashes located all over her body. In order to proceed with her diagnoses, a biological technique, western immunoblot assay, was used to rule out other viruses.

Western blots allow researchers to “identify specific proteins from a complex mixture of proteins extracted from cells”. This technique is a common application involved in biotechnology. The sample tested was serum from the patient’s blood. By using antibodies specific for the virus, researchers were able to use the assay to see if any proteins produced by a virus was present in the serum. Another technique involved in biotechnology that was used is Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). PCR was used to amplify the amount of serum to run on the assay. The results from the assay showed only positive protein produced by R. typhi.

Epidemic typhus is caused by a bacteria Rickettsia prowazekii. This disease was most prevalent in areas of a very concentrated population that have unsanitary living conditions. It has been shown to be most prevalent in colder areas of “Africa, Asia, and Central and South America”. This article mentions that this bacterium has a high potential to be used as a bioterrorism agent because if it is left untreated, it is lethal. Humans are able to contract it by being in contact with blood or feces with an infected person.

It is important to note the application of biotechnology for epidemics like Epidemic typhus. When diseases spread, medications and vaccines need to be made in order to treat and prevent the further spread of the disease. By using biological laboratory techniques, researchers are able to diagnose accurately and figure out the characteristics of the disease to possibly develop vaccines for them. Common techniques such as western blots and PCR are used in research facilities worldwide.

The bacterium that causes Epidemic typhus requires an “arthropod vector to infect the human host”. In most cases the vector is Pediculus humanus humanus, and it is featured at the top of this post.
Small Pox

Small pox

Images Courtesy of Illinois Department of Public Health

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), small pox has been completely eradicated in the United States and the last known case was in 1949. Due to the succession in creating a vaccine from a “pox”-type virus known as vaccinia, routine vaccinations for all Americans was common until 1972. Vaccinia will not cause small pox or spread it but it does create immunity in the bodies against it. The vaccine is no longer available to the public because there is no longer a need for prevention. However, the CDC still holds the strain of small pox locked incase an outbreak does occur, they can use it to create vaccines.

In 2008, the “CDC was notified by a Virginia physician of a suspect case of inadvertent autoinoculation and VACV infection in an unvaccinated laboratory worker”. A journal article titled “Laboratory-Acquired Vaccinia Virus Infection” discusses the case study of this one worker. A young man in his twenties attended a local urgent care clinic after he noticed swelling in lymph nodes and inflammation in his ear. When he was prescribed antibiotics they did not affect the symptoms and they ended becoming worse. He developed a sever inflammation around his eyes that limited his vision. Since this young man was working in a laboratory with the active virus, an infectious disease physician had a suspension that the man had contracted the virus at work. Through laboratory analysis, researchers found that the strain reported from the patient’s specimen sample did no match the strain he was working on at work.

Through occupational health investigation, it was discovered that the director of the laboratory was not up-to-date with his VACV vaccinations. Biosafety information is crucial to laboratory safety in order to prevent outbreaks like this. The patient could have easily spread the disease and another epidemic could have occurred.

Small pox is included because of it is important to note the potential for another epidemic if a researcher handled the strain incorrectly. The CDC has many strains of diseases locked away that only a limited amount of workers are exposed to for research purposes. It brings an important topic of bioethics into perspective and whether or not the CDC should hold onto dangerous viruses such as this one. For this reason, small pox is seen as a potential disease that can be used for bioterrorism.
Yellow Fever 

yellow fever

Image Courtesy of article “Philadelphia Under Siege: The Yellow Fever of 1793”

According to the Contagion Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics, the first case of yellow fever in the United States broke out in Philadelphia in 1793. The disease is characterized by yellowing of the eyes and skin and black vomit due to internal bleeding in the stomach. The disease is known to be spread by infected mosquitoes and originate from rotting vegetable matter. The epidemic depopulated Philadelphia by 5,000.

One of the most notable physicians that created a treatment plan for patients with yellow fever was Benjamin Rush. In 1793 the disease’s origin and method of transmission was unknown and confusing for many physicians. Medications were wrongly prescribed due to improper diagnoses. Dr. Rush’s treatment plan was somewhat extreme because the design of it was to purge the body of the disease by inducing vomiting and bloodletting. At the time, physicians believed that disease came from an imbalance in “four bodily fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile”. This method of treatment was to induce large amounts of mercury into the body. Inducing mercury actually proved to be a somewhat an effective treatment for yellow fever at the time but it would never be a method used today. Mercury is very poisonous to the body, which is why it is not found in products sold to the public such as mercury thermometers.

This epidemic is important to include because it exemplifies how medicine has truly improved since this era. In the 18th century, treatment was mainly focused on a spiritual basis and on bodily fluids. Technology including proper screening tools had not been invented. Proper blood test would have been useful in detecting pathogens and helped with correct treatment for yellow fever. If the epidemic somehow broke out today, bleeding patients and using toxic mercury would never be used treatment.

Polio Virus 

iron tube

Image of Poliovirus is courtesy of Global Eradication Initiative.

According to the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, Poliomyelitis is a viral disease that is contracted primarily through the mouth or feces of an infected person. A small RNA virus that grows and multiplies in the body’s lymph nodes causes Polio. This disease is most characterized by the permanent paralysis of muscle groups. The reason being is due to the virus infecting motor cells in the spinal cord and or brain stem. In worst cases, a person can gain paralysis of the diaphragm and have to depend on an artificial breathing machine called and “iron lung”. This machine “consisted of a full-body-sized iron chamber that functioned as a mechanical bellows…[it] mechanically lower[s] and raise[s] the air pressure within the chamber forc[ing] air in and out of the patients’ lungs” (pg. 480). Since there was no cure during the first break out of polio, using this machine extended the life span of many polio patients.

One of the most historic persons to have struggled with polio was president Franklin D. Roosevelt. He frequently visited a spa in Georgia that was known for its healing therapies. The facility eventually became the hub for “research and education on matters related to rehabilitation following poliomyelitis” (482). FDR was a large supporter of funding for researching possible cures for polio. He funded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), which is now more properly known as March of Dimes. The foundation ultimately did create a successful polio vaccine.

After the vaccine was created, the poliovirus became extremely rare. One type of vaccine available is an oral vaccine containing the “live, attenuated (weakened) vaccine-virus”. Since the strain is weakened, the body is able to build immunity to it. Polio symptoms become prevalent at a young age, usually shown by the age of 15.

Polio is one of the few epidemics that have vaccines for curing. It takes a large amount of funding to research treatments for any disease, which could have contributed to why it took many years for a vaccine to be created. Viral vaccines are still constantly in research because of the possibility of drug resistance. For most new treatments on cancers being discovered in labs, the body has a way of developing resistance to the drugs after a few doses of the medicine. There is still along way to go to develop vaccines for all diseases.
The 1918 Flu Epidemic 

Various strains of the influenza have reeked havoc across the world. Due to the lack of gene regulation factors on influenza viruses, the more likely they are to mutate. The slight mutations would accumulate enough where are immune system would recognize the virus as different type than it has seen before. These mutations allow for a variety of viruses that cause similar signs and symptoms to patients affects. The 1918 flu strain of the H1N1 virus spread so easily it escalated quickly from an epidemic to a pandemic.

There are two factors that makes this virus one of the deadliest that the world has seen. One of these is 500 million affected with the virus and killing between 50 and 100 million. The other was that the virus mainly killed young adults. Most flu virus affect the young, the very old or people who are already weak. However, instead of the normal U shape of infected individuals (i.e. young and elderly) the virus was highly prevalent among young adults. Therefore the curve of individuals infected was in a W shape.



Image courtesy of the 

This strain of the H1N1 caused patients immune systems to go into overdrive and become attacked. It was found that the healthier the immune the deadlier the consequences of the infection. Signs and symptoms of the disease included temperature ranging from 102 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Other signs on infection include sore throat, exhaustion, headache, aching limbs, bloodshot eyes, and cough.


Image courtesy of the 

The reason why this pandemic is added to our anthology is because it has affected countries across the globe and even into isolated countries located in the Pacific Ocean. Because of the numerous cases, this flu outbreak has been labeled one of the worst natural histories in mankind.


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a viral disease that has affected the entire globe. If left untreated, this disease can turn in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, explain that in order to infect cells, the HIV protein envelope (Env) binds to the primary cellular receptor CD4 and then to a cellular coreceptor. Then the binding allows for the fusion on the viral and host cell’s membrane. Once membrane fusion is complete viral infection has occurred.


Image courtesy of US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Once inside the host cell the virus is then uncoated to release proteins and viral genetic material. The genetic material of the HIV virus is composed of RNA. In order for the virus to completely infect the cell the RNA must undergo reverse transcription and then the DNA synthesized can be forced into the cell’s nucleus. Once inside the nucleus the viral DNA can be inserted into the host cell’s DNA allowing for the viral proliferation


Image courtesy of Nature

What makes this virus so difficult to treat is because this virus infects the host cell’s DNA. This means that the virus is living within the patient’s own cells. Once this virus has infected its host, signs and symptoms would be a compromised immune system. This could potentially fatal leading patients that are infected with HIV/AIDS by opportunistic pathogens.

This disease has affected many continents around the globe. An area most affect by the HIV/AIDS epidemic is South Africa. According to Avert, South Africa has the 6.3 million people living with HIV. South Africa’s HIV profile is the highest in comparison to other countries with over 19.1% HIV people infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that HIV is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sex, sharing of needles or needle, rinse water.5 As of right now there are no current cures for the disease and the only treatment available is antiviral medications.

The reason why I chose the HIV/AIDS epidemic is because of how widespread this virus has become. It is affecting underserved and vulnerable populations across the globe. With the media slowly losing focus on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and shifting more towards new disease like the recent Ebola and Zika virus outbreak.


The World Health Organization (WHO) describes Cholera as an “acute diarrheal disease that can kill within hour when left untreated.” It has been estimated that there are approximately 1.4 to 4.3 million cases reported due to cholera every year. This infectious disease affects both children and adults. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) describes the signs and symptoms of the disease include profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps.

 Vibrio cholera is considered the etiological bacteria that causes the disease in patients. Contaminated water is the vehicle which drives the infections into humans. The mechanism of action of this is known to cause stimulation of a g protein coupled receptor activating adenylate Cyclase for the creation of cAMP. The cAMP created then interacts with a CFTR protein that allows for Chloride ions to flow into the lumen of the epithelial cells (located in our gastrointestinal tract). The movement of Chloride ions into the lumen draws water out of the cells and gets excreted leading to major dehydration in patients.



Image courtesy of InterPro

One of the most memorable epidemic caused by Cholera occurred in Haiti after an immense earthquake in 2010.  After the earthquake healthcare professionals noted an increase of patients coming into clinics and hospitals showing signs of watery diarrhea and dehydration.

“To date, over 470,000 cases of cholera have been reported in Haiti with 6,631 attributable deaths”. The cause of the disease in this third world country is due to the lack of clean water available to the public. The contaminated water supplies contained the disease causing agent that affected an entire country.

The reason why I chose to include the Cholera epidemic in Haiti is because it is one of most well documented epidemic in recent history. Another reason why I decided to include it into the anthology is the scientific knowledge known about the disease itself. The toxins and their mechanisms of action and the pathology of Cholera disease is something that I am very interested in.

Cocoliztli300px-FlorentineCodex_BK12_F54_smallpox            The Aztec Empire reached it’s height in power during the mid 14th to the mid 16th centuries. Aztec warrior were able to conquer small Indian tribes and expand its reign throughout Central America. It seemed that there was nothing in Aztec Empire’s way toward control of North, Central, and South Americas. However, when Hernan Cortes and other Spanish conquistadors came in 1519 everything has changed. The native population collapse in 16th century Mexico was a demographic catastrophe with one of the highest death rates in history. The majority of the native population of Aztecs perished under diseases that came along with Spanish invaders. Diseases included smallpox, the flu, measles and others. However out of all diseases that affected the Aztec population, Cocoliztli was considered to be the most lethal of out all. From the years of 1545-1548, Cocoliztli has killed an estimated 5 million to 15 million people.


Image courtesy of US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health

This disease became the most damaging to almost cause an entire civilization to be wiped out.  A first person account of the progression of the disease by Franciso Hernandez describes patients with Cocoliztli suffer from high fever, sever headaches, vertigo, black tongue, and dark urine. Although these first accounts provide insightful information concerning the progression of the disease and the consequences to the Aztec civilization, there is little scientic understanding of what Cocoliztli actually is or how it came into existence. Speculation from scientific journals discuss that the disease was “likely an indigenous virus carried by a biological vehicle (possibly rodents).

The reason why I decided to chose this epidemic disease is because of devastation that Cocoliztli has caused to the Aztecs. A civilization that is climbed up to immense power and had major influence across all of South America. This hemorrhagic disease and other diseases brought by foreign invaders brought such a powerful nation on its knees.


The Black Plague


Image courtesy of the Independent 

The Centers for Disease Control describe the Black Plague as a disease that affects human and other mammals. The cause of the disease is caused by a bacteria, Yersinia pesitis. The plague is a zoonotic disease that primarily affects rodents and humans. The way the disease is spread is through the transmission from rodents to humans by fleas. The fleas feed on the blood of rodents and through the feeding process the bacteria is taken into the flea.


Image courtesy of LearnNext

Once inside the flea, the Yersinia pestis bacteria then grows inside the flea’s throat causing the flea trouble consuming blood meals. This causes the fleas to feed more aggressively and as a consequence increased transmission of the disease to humans and rodents.  This became one of the many virulence factors that helped the spread of the black plague easily throughout Europe during the 14th century. The NCBI explains that the black plague has spread throughout Europe entirely within only five years (1347-51). Patients infected with the deadly bacteria developed signs and symptoms that commonly included fever, headache, chills, tender and painful lymph nodes called buboes.  Doctors and other health professionals were astounded on how fast this disease was easily spread. By the end of 1351 the disease has claimed the lived over 25 million people. At the time the number of death consisted of the one third to one half of the population of Europe. Treatment for the disease did not exist during the 14th century. However, today simple antibiotics are used in order to treat patients infected with Yersenia pesitis. The antibiotics that are prescribed help prevent the synthesis of the bacteria’s peptidoglycan wall and causing the bacteria cells to die.

The epidemic of the black was chosen for the anthology because of how much of an impact this disease has caused in Europe. This strain of Yersinia has changed the course of history and evolution of preventative healthcare and medicine.

Antonine Plague 


Above: Chaos ensues in Rome. Photo courtesy of Armstrong Economics

The Antonine Plague hit Rome in 165 AD during the Reign of Marcus Aurellius, and it was because of his aggressive globalization of Modern Day Europe that the plague ended up spreading across all of Europe. The Plague, which was believed to be a mutant strain of smallpox, was brought back to the Roman Empire by Aurellius’s troops after battle on the Eastern front of Europe. The casualty rate was sometimes as high as 2,000 people a day, and because of the open sores and scabbing caused by the disease, it spread faster than people could run. The magnitude of this plague was so large that Aurellius had to leave Rome and command his city from afar, and many historians believe this to be the beginning of the end in Rome’s dominance over the Eastern Hemisphere. Some Historians believe that the plague was actually caused by another disease as well, measles (McNeill). To cope with the illness, many Romans turned to “magic” as a remedy instead of apothecary supplements, neither of which ultimately ended up working to stop the hysteria.

This Epidemic was chosen for this anthology because due to the Antonine Plague, the fall of the Roman Empire started and shifted the entire axis of control and power in the European Theatre.
Angola Rabies Outbreak


 Photo courtesy of Dogsaholic

In 2009, a rabies outbreak that spanned over 3 months killed 93 people in a small town in Angola, outside the city’s capital Luanda. For the most part, the spread of this treatable disease was due to the unhygienic living qualities that the city’s 4.5 million people lived in (slums, small shelters, below sea level). Normally, people would be able to receive treatment immediately, but the citizens of Angola didn’t have access to the rabies immunoglobulin nor a vaccine to treat it. The cause of this outbreak is believed to have stemmed from the city’s large stray dog population, despite efforts to shrink that population in the past and according to the CDC, around 90% of all human exposure to rabies comes from rabid dogs. Rabies is a preventable disease via vaccinations however, most deaths from rabies exposure happen in countries with sub-par public health knowledge, hospital services, and preventive treatment. Rabies attacks the central nervous systems and hijacks red and white blood cells, which can cause paralysis in extreme cases. Symptoms include hydrophobia, hallucinations, and encephalitis. In the U.S., rabies exposure is an uncommon yet very treatable viral disease however, there are many countries that still do not have access to medications to treat it, and this small outbreak in Angola turned deadly when the disease was not contained.

This epidemic was chosen because it highlights the uphill battle that many poor countries face when trying to control a disease that is consuming a population.
The Battle Against Global Malaria


Above: Step-by-step process of Malaria entering the body. Photo courtesy of

Although Malaria is one of the world’s most common diseases, it is also one of the most dangerous and spreadable diseases if not treated fast. Like Rabies, Malaria is the most prominent in poorer countries close to the equator, situated in humid climates. Malaria is only transmitted to humans by Anopheles mosquitoes (sometimes called Malaria vectors) and uses plasmodium parasites. Global efforts to contain Malaria and stop the spread have been spearheaded by the United States and other nations, with strategies still evolving. One problem that makes treating Malaria so difficult, is that many strains are now immune to drugs and insect resistance components, ultimately becoming a drug-resistant form of Malaria. Although global efforts have increased, the “World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there were approximately 214 million cases of malaria and 438,000 deaths, mostly among children under the age of five, in 2015”. Between 2000 and 2012, estimated malaria mortality rates decreased by 42% worldwide and by 49% in the African Region; they are estimated to have decreased by 48% in children under 5 years of age globally and by 54% in the African Region (WHO). As seen with the rabies epidemic, many of the countries where Malaria is prominent are countries of low GDP, therefore being unable to afford the same level of public health as other countries.

This Epidemic was chosen because it is a prominent example of how a disease can become airborne in by another organism


Lyme Disease Global Epidemic 


Above: An image of an Early Localized infection. Without treatment can spread throughout body. Photo courtesy of

“An estimated 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year”, and the numbers are rising, according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention. Lymes disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia. It is carried on ticks and transmitted to humans by bite or blood exposure. Symptoms range from fevers and nausea, to death, and a lot of people do not take Lymes Disease seriously, which will change. According to Huffington Post “If not treated early and appropriately, infection with Lyme can produce chronic disease that can cause severe pain, debilitating fatigue, reduced quality of life and neurological problems such as impaired memory and concentration”. Most people who have experienced Lyme’s Disease are familiar with the most common case, the Early Localized Infection. This is characterized by the infamous red, circular blotch that can sometimes be misdiagnosed as a skin disorder. People who experience this are lucky and should seek treatment as fast as possible, because the Early Localized Infection means that the Lyme bacteria hasn’t spread throughout the body’s systems yet. After the bacteria has hit the blood stream, the Early Disseminated Infection has begun which includes the same symptoms as the Early Localized Infection. After months of no treatment, the Late Disseminated Infection takes over the bodies nerves and chronic symptoms affecting the eyes, joints, ligaments, and parts of the nervous system become under attack. Some individuals even experience temporary paralysis during this stage.

This epidemic was chosen because many Americans experience Lyme's Disease in their lifetime. It is also often thought of as a less-than serious illness, which dangerously untrue.


The Zika Virus Outbreak

Below: Zika Virus Bacteria. Photo courtesy of The Center For Disease Control

2016 Cynthia Goldsmith Caption:This is a transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of Zika virus, which is a member of the family Flaviviridae. Virus particles are 40 nm in diameter, with an outer envelope, and an inner dense core. Additional Information:“Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.”For more information on the Zika virus, follow the link below.

In early 2016, reports of widespread Zika Virus outbreaks in Pacific Regions and South America began circulating as the World Health Organization issuing statements about the chaos. The Zika Virus was first contained in 1947 inside a monkey in Uganda, and in the coming years only 14 total cases had been documented, so many people believed the virus to be extinct. However, in August of 2014 physicians were noticing many symptoms on patients similar to Dengue Fever, and later confirmed that the Zika Virus was not contained and was spreading fast. Like Malaria, The Zika Virus is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted to humans through injection. The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is the main carrier of this virus and this species of mosquito is the most common mosquito in the prominent regions most affected by the Zika Virus, and traces of the mosquito have also been found as far north as the great lakes. Although The Zika Virus rarely kills people, according to the CDC the Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects”. However, one good thing about contracting The Zika Virus is that people who are exposed more than once will seldom ever be infected by it again.

This Epidemic was chosen because it is a current problem globally and is affecting more people by the day.
Pertussis (Whooping Cough)


Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pertussis is a respiratory illness caused by a type of Bacteria known as Bordetella Pertussis. This type of bacteria attaches itself to the cilia of our respiratory system and releases toxins that cause irritation and swelling of our airways. This disease is often reffered to as “whooping cough” because of the very deep whooping sound that is made when people who have Pertussis cough.

Pertussis is spread through direct and indirect contact between people. Anytime infected patients sneeze, cough, or just spend too much time around other people, they are likely to spread the disease along. According to the CDC, the begging symptoms of the disease are ailments like a runny nose, fever, or mild cough. However, if untreated, these symptoms usually worsen and turn into rapid coughing fits, vomiting, and often exhaustion.

The CDC released a report about a Pertussis outbreak in Washington in 2012. It stated that, The Washington State Secretary of Health declared the outbreak an epidemic on April 3, 2012. The reason they declared this outbreak an epidemic was because of how quickly it spread throughout the state. There were 2,520 reported cases, with 2,069 actually confirmed. This is an extreme amount of cases, and in fact was more than any reported cases of Pertussis since the year 1942.

Unfortunately, this disease targets those with weak immune systems such as infants and elderly. There has been a vaccination that has been developed, but like any vaccination, it is not 100% effective.

We chose to include Pertussis in our anthology because it is a disease that is to this day still killing thousands of people every year, all over the world. We wanted to raise awareness of the disease, so that people who are experiencing symptoms could take the proper precautions necessary to get rid of it before it turns into an epidemic. It is important for readers to know that even a sickness that seems like it could be a common cold at first, could be deadly enough to take lives if it is not properly treated.


Image of Measles Rash Courtesy of the CDC

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles is a viral disease causes early symptoms such as high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. Later symptoms include tiny white spots in the patient’s mouth called Koplik spots, and a fever spike followed by a full body rash.

Measles is a virus that is passed along much like many other sicknesses, through coughing, sneezing, and infected airspace. In fact, measles is so contagious that if a person has it, 90% of all those who are in close quarters with that person, and are not immune, are most likely going to get it.

Measles can be prevented by using the MMR vaccination, also know are the Measles-Mumps- Rubella vaccination. However, it is clear that this vaccination is not fully effective, because the United States guaranteed the elimination of measles in the year 2000, but there were still epidemics that occurred both in 2014 and 2015.

In 2014, the United States experienced one of the biggest measles epidemics in a long time. There were 667 cases of measles from 27 different states. In 2015, there were 189 cases, in 24 states. The biggest way that measles was making its way into the United States was through infected travelers. This is because measles is still common in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.

The reason we chose to add the Measles epidemic to our anthology was because as a group we collectively thought it was interesting that the United States claimed to eliminate measles at the start of the year 2000, but that cases were still occurring. We figured it would be smart to inform our readers about vaccinations, and about the presence of this virus not only in our own country, but abroad as well. It is better to be safe and get vaccinated before traveling overseas, than to bring back a case of measles that could start another epidemic.



Above is an Image of the Mumps Virus under an electron Microscope Courtesy of the CDC

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mumps is a disease that is caused by a virus. Mumps patients are usually easily recognized due to their puffy cheeks and jaws that are caused by swollen salivary glands.

Mumps is very contagious, and it is easily spread through the mucus of the mouth, nose, or throat. So, like many sicknesses, coughing, sneezing, talking, or sharing food or drink will quickly spread the mumps virus around.

Although not as common as it was in years prior to the vaccination, mumps is still present around us in the world today. According to the CDC, the last very large mumps epidemic to occur in the United States was between the years 2009-2010. There were two huge out breaks. One outbreak took place in New York City. It involved 3000 high school aged students. It was caused by a member of a religious community in the area who traveled to the UK while there was a huge mumps epidemic going on there. The second outbreak occurred in the U.S. Territory of Guam. 500 people were infected.

The MMR vaccination, also known as the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination, helped to bring U.S. occurrence of Mumps down by 99%. However, although this is a drastic change, mumps is able to sill occur in vaccinated regions.

The reason that we chose to add mumps to our anthology was because although it does not occur nearly as much as it used to during the pre-vaccination era, it still occurs on college campuses all over the country. In fact, college campuses in California, Virginia, and Maryland have all had outbreaks of mumps fairly recently. We figured it would be interesting for our readers to learn more about a disease that has been around for a very long time.
Hepatitis B

Hepatits B

Image Courtesy of

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hepatitis B is an infection that occurs in the liver. It is passed along through bodily fluids such as blood or semen. For some, Hepatitis B is what is called an acute illness (temporary). While for others, it can be chronic (long term and life threatening).

A person’s age determines whether they are going to develop an acute form of Hepatitis B or a chronic form. Unfortunately, statistics from the CDC show that 90% of all babies who get Hepatitis B develop the chronic form.

Since the year 1990 there was a Hepatitis B epidemic that was started from the misuse of blood glucose monitoring equipment. A minimum of 147 people acquired Hepatitis B from the improper use of the equipment. At least 6 of the people died. In the past ten years or so, there has been an epidemic amongst diabetics in care facilities who have received Hepatitis B through the sharing of “spring-loaded finger-stick device”.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all children receive their first dose of Hepatitis B vaccine at birth and complete the vaccine series by age 6–18 months.” This is to prevent the development of chronic Hepatitis B in their new born bodies. Also, people who receive blood transfusions are recommended to get them as well.

We wanted to include the Hepatitis B epidemic in our anthology because as a group, our favorite book from this semester was Pointing From the Grave. In the book, taking samples of blood and semen solves Helena Greenwood’s assault and murder. We thought a epidemic which is started through exposure of blood or semen would be interesting to learn about.


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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tuberculosis, or TB for short, is actually a bacterial disease caused by the bacterium known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. If untreated, TB can be an extremely fatal disease. Although it is known to often attack the lungs, the CDC reports that it also can attack all parts of the body including kidneys, spine and brain.

The TB bacterium is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. It is not a disease that could be spread through touch or saliva. So, if one shares a meal with an infected person, or kisses an infected person, he or she is not going to get tuberculosis.

An interesting fact about TB is that in can live in your body without making you sick. This form of TB infection is called the latent infection. If the bacterium actually makes you sick, then it is called Tuberculosis disease. A person who has TB will most likely experience symptoms like chest pains, coughing, coughing up blood, chills, lack of appetite and fever.

TB is an epidemic that is still present in the world today. In 2012, there were 8.6 million new cases of tuberculosis reported, and 1.3 million deaths. Many of the cases were in poverty stricken locations. The World Health Organization (WHO) is aiming to put and end to the epidemic by the year 2035.

We chose to add the tuberculosis epidemic into our anthology because it is an epidemic that is still very present in our society today. Our generation will have the pleasure of seeing groups like the WHO, working to combat a disease like tuberculosis which is killing millions around the world.


From viral mutations to fatal bacterial contaminations, it is hard to believe that an organism or virus so small can be so deadly. With so many dying, there was very little done in most cases. That doesn’t even touch upon the horror of watching one suffering. Or fearing that you could fall victim to the deadly infection.

This anthology describes twenty of the worst epidemics to have ever hit humanity. The epidemics chosen for anthology include criteria such as epidemic, pandemics, and other diseases that have spread across the globe rapidly, killing numerous victims. Though the diseases from mankind’s past has proven to be terrifying, science has evolved immensely to combat the disease causing pathogens. Items and theories such as disease origin, modes of transmission, and the response to the infection are all understood better from biotechnology’s advancement and explained within our anthology entries.

Joining us in our “nerdventure” will hopefully educate you of signs and symptoms of diseases, disease causing pathogens, and give a better appreciate towards the scientific field.
Scientific Anthology: Epidemics

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