Contagion and Pestilence in Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies

Before Isidore of Seville became the patron saint of the internet, he was known for over a thousand years as a font of knowledge.  Isidore was not an innovator; he was a master of synthesis. It is through Isidore that we have an orderly account of the learned knowledge of the Late Roman world.  He... Continue Reading →


Demystifying Scientific Authorship

Over the last few months, I've been talking quite a bit with historians. Many of them are starting to read more biology papers; some are perplexed by the format and brevity. So, I plan on occasionally writing posts that I hope will help non-science folks and students cope with science literature. A recent question:  how... Continue Reading →

What makes a Super-Spreader?

Parameters that should be theoretically equal often aren't so in the real world. Ideally everyone should have the same potential to transmit an infection during a given outbreak, but it has long been observed that this isn't true. Super-spreaders play an extraordinary role in driving outbreaks of infectious disease. A super-spreader is a person who... Continue Reading →

Historic Meanings of “Cholera”

Today the term cholera is restricted to suspected infections caused by Vibrio cholerae, sometimes called Asiatic cholera. Vibrio cholerae produces a very characteristic watery diarrhea sometimes described as 'rice water'. This narrow definition wasn't always so. Since antiquity, cholera could refer to any diarrhea or dysentery. The term cholera comes from the Greek word cholē... Continue Reading →

Defining pandemic

Defining a pandemic is not an easy thing to do. It turns out that there has never really been much consensus about what constitutes a pandemic. The term pandemic has been used almost interchangeably with epidemic since the beginning of its usage. In the midst of responding to last year's H1N1 influenza outbreak public health... Continue Reading →

Yersinia Etymology

The new issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases has little piece on the etymology (origins) of the genus name Yersinia. The genus Yersinia is best known for its first member, Yersinia pestis, better known as the plague or bubonic plague. The name Yerisnia is not very old. The genus was renamed Yersinia after one of its... Continue Reading →

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