Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Mask of the Red Death, Cholera and a Good Read on Infectious Diseases

It was just the other day that I learned that the short story, The Mask of the Red Death, written by Edgar Allen Poe, was inspired by the events of a society ball held by German poet Heinrich Heine. The ball was held in the midst of the 1832 Paris cholera epidemic which claimed 19,000 lives in total. During the ball, a harlequin dancer felt a chill in his legs and took off his mask, revealing a violaceous face. The chlolera symptoms had begun. By the end of the night, several party goers, along with the harlequin, were dispatched to the famed Hotel-Dieu where they later died of cholera.

For infectious diseases nerds, such as myself, here is a good read titled Pandemic by Sonia Shah. The author explores the emergence of new pathogens and pandemics, including cholera, in both a scholarly and gripping fashion.

Outbreaks do not occur randomly, rather, they are the consequences of expanding urbanization, deforestation, crowding, poor public health infrastructure, misuse of antibiotics and globalized, highly connected travel.

Good read.

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