Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Plague, among other things

"Ring around the rosy

A pocket full of posies

Ashes, ashes

We all fall down!"

At the end of each parent & pre-school swim class we sing one of the little swimmers' favorite songs. The familiar sounds of their laughter as they, cradled in their parents' arms, splash the water, allow us to end the song without ever even considering its origin. This classic nursery song appears to have been around forever, yet children still sing it today. Have you ever wondered about the meaning behind the classic, playground, nursery rhyme?

“Ring around the rosy” was adapted from another children’s song, to describe the early outbreaks of the bubonic plague, amidst the rise of its spread. During the late 1800s countless children, men and women acquired a then-terminal illness characterized by ringed, red blisters and boils. The Plague was found to be caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis. The disease, carried among rats, was transmitted to humans through fleas. This was the same pathogen that gave rise to the Great Plague of London during the 17th Century.

The Plague is not the only infectious disease that comes to mind when considering zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people). Do you remember the SARS outbreak in 2002-03? Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome, caused by SARS coronavirus, spread across China faster than a “he-said, she-said” thriller across a junior-high locker room. Despite its rapid rise and the world-wide use of commercial transportation, a global pandemic was quickly prevented through communication and collaboration. Without governmental cooperation and the collaboration of labs around the world, the virus and its source would not have been identified nearly as quickly as it was. Communication to the general public was key in preventing the further spread of infection.

More recently, the influenza H1N1 virus(aka: "swine" flu) has become a topic of concern among the general public. While the Western world wages this battle against the rise of pandemic, we see how once again effective communication and educating the general public is crucial to preventing further disease spread. The focus of this blog is on emerging infectious diseases, the importance of effective science communication, as well as other assorted topics. This blog is intended to bring attention to assorted topics in medical microbiology for those interested in infectious diseases, both a part of the scientific community as well as the general public.

1 comment:

  1. Great opening post. Good lead and nice conclusion at the end. And a good length as well. And of course a memorable blog name. I will keep reading. Spread the word amongst your friends and family so that people can learn from your posts and hopefully leave some comments.