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History of Epi

Basic Income: A radical idea for eliminating poverty

The Watson Arts Centre in Dauphin, Manitoba (photo from Wikipedia)
The Watson Arts Centre in Dauphin, Manitoba (photo from Wikipedia)

I imagine most of my readers have never heard of Dauphin, Manitoba. A small, farming community in Canada, Dauphin is a town that was part of an experiment back in the 1970s. The “mincome” project was launched in 1974, and offered everyone a minimum income. Unfortunately, the project was shut down in 1979 with a change in the government, and so the effects weren’t long term enough. The purpose of the mincome project was to see what would happen if a “top up” was offered to everyone. Dr. Evelyn Forget has been studying records from those years, and following up on people to see how it impacted their life. Would people stop working? Would there be higher rates of employment? How would people respond?

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Hot time summer in the city (Legionnaires Disease)

1976 was a busy year in Philadelphia. They were holding the Bicentennial celebration, commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. As part of the year-long festivities, the city had become a hub for events, hosting the championship game of the NCAA Final Four, as well as the all-star games for baseball, basketball and hockey. On the 4th of July, around 2 million people descended on the city for the celebrations, which featured a five hour parade with over 40,000 marchers and floats from every state. But it was to be a small, 2000 person event that would go down in history.

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Image courtesy Flickr user DaveZ

Book Review: Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses, and Drug-Resistant Parasites

Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses, and Drug-Resistant Parasites | Click image to go to CSTE website

Anyone who follows my writing knows that I’m a big proponent of using stories to talk about science. We’ve discussed how you can use science fiction teach science, zombies to talk about disease outbreaks, and my TEDx talk discussed using principles of storytelling in how we discuss science. So when I was asked to review (see disclaimer below) Dr Alexandra Levitt’s new book “Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses and Drug-Resistant Parasites,” I jumped on the opportunity.

The CDC has a program known as the Epidemiologic Intelligence Services, where individuals trained in fields such as epidemiology, medicine, statistics and veterinary sciences come together to identify causes of diseases. For an overview of the EIS, check out this review of “Inside the Outbreaks” by Travis Saunders over at Obesity Panacea. The EIS was set up Alexander Langmuir, who has been profiled on the blog, and their work has been instrumental in learning about, and thus containing, disease outbreaks all over the world. Dr Levitt is well positioned to speak on these issues, having worked at the CDC since 1995, although it should be noted that this was written in her free time, not as part of her position at the CDC.

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History of Epidemiology: Patient Zero and Typhoid Mary

ResearchBlogging.orgBetter Know An Epidemiologist/History of Epidemiology is an ongoing feature where Mr Epidemiology pays tribute to people and studies that have set the stage for his generation of epidemiologists. All of the articles are listed here.

Gaetan Dugas, Air Canada flight attendant and one of the first diagnosed cases of HIV

EDIT 10/01/12: I had indicated (incorrectly) that Typhoid Fever was a viral disease. It is in fact due to a bacterium instead. Thanks to Mike the Mad Biologist for pointing that out!

EDIT 10/01/12: As Brett Keller points out in the comments, Gaetan Dugas was not Patient Zero for HIV. While he contributed to the spread of the virus, he wasn’t the first known case of it, and so the label of Patient Zero is unfairly applied to him.

Patient Zero is a common infectious disease epidemiology term. It refers to the first known case of the disease of interest, and is useful when tracking disease outbreaks. Knowing where the disease starts allows us to track not only the spread of the disease, but also how it spreads – through water, air, person-to-person contact etc.

I heard an absolutely phenomenal podcast through WNYC’s RadioLab podcast about Patient Zero, and that formed the inspiration for this post. I highly recommend listening to it when you have a chance – either through iTunes, on their website. They cover several different “Patient Zero’s,” including Typhoid Mary and Gaetan Dugas (pictured above).

Today, I’ll be talking about Typhoid Mary. To listen exclusively to the Typhoid Mary segment of the RadioLab podcast, click here.

Click the image to go to the RadioLab podcast about Patient Zero.

Continue reading “History of Epidemiology: Patient Zero and Typhoid Mary”

History of Epidemiology: Jonas Salk and The Eradication of Polio

Better Know An Epidemiologist/History of Epidemiology is an ongoing feature where Mr Epidemiology pays tribute to people and studies who have set the stage for his generation of epidemiologists. All of the articles are listed here.

Poliomyelitis is an infectious viral disease. It enters through the mouth and is usually spread by contaminated drinking water or food. The virus passes through the stomach and then replicates in the lining of the intestines. Most healthy people infected with virus experience little more than mild fever or diarrhea. However, some people develop paralysis, and some die as a result.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States of America, suffered from Polio

In 1952, approximately 58,000 new cases of Poliomyelitis occurred in the United States. In 1953, approximately 35,000 new cases were reported. This was up from an annual average of 20,000 cases. The 1952 infections left 3,145 people dead and 21,269 with mild to disabling paralysis.

Even before the 1952 and 1953 outbreaks, labs had been worked diligently to find a cure for Polio. Relief finally came when Jonas Salk developed a vaccine.

More after the jump.

Continue reading “History of Epidemiology: Jonas Salk and The Eradication of Polio”

Better Know An Epidemiologist: Alexander Langmuir

Better Know An Epidemiologist/History of Epidemiology is an ongoing feature where Mr Epidemiology pays tribute to people and studies who have set the stage for his generation of epidemiologists. All of the articles are listed here.

Epidemiology is a relatively new field. While John Snow made his breakthrough in the 1850s, even as recently as World War 2, there was no central epidemiology agency. However, with the start of the Korean War, the threat of biological warfare loomed. As a result, the government recognized the need for an organization who would track and monitor disease outbreaks.

Enter Alexander Langmuir.

Alexander Langmuir, founder of the Epidemic Intelligence Service

Continue reading “Better Know An Epidemiologist: Alexander Langmuir”

Better Know An Epidemiologist: John Snow

Better Know An Epidemiologist/History of Epidemiology is an ongoing feature where Mr Epidemiology pays tribute to people and studies who have set the stage for his generation of epidemiologists. All of the articles are listed here.

Edit 11/02/11: I added in a link to a Google Map of the cholera outbreak

There have been many breakthroughs made off the blood and sweat of Epidemiologists. They have been at the forefront of eradicating polio, smallpox, reducing deaths from cholera and even detecting thalidomide as a teratogen.

But we will start at the beginning with the first Epidemiologist, John Snow.

More after the jump.

Continue reading “Better Know An Epidemiologist: John Snow”

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