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Infectious Disease Pandemics: Historical Lessons and Future Concerns

Infectious disease pandemics have shaped, and been shaped by, human history. Frightening diseases such as plague and smallpox spread widely as a result of both natural causes and human activities. Societal reactions included fear, discrimination and segregation, as well as efforts to prevent spread and ease suffering. As humans gained knowledge of the disease agents, they used them as tools for medical research, but also as weapons of war. The development of vaccines and antibiotics helped us to control and prevent outbreaks, at least in developed nations. However, the success of these medical interventions has also fostered complacency that may hinder efforts to prevent future pandemics.

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