War on Germs

Edwin Chadwick believed that disease limited people’s ability to survive and succeed. He observed that a sick worker does not perform as well as a healthy worker, and as a result could become unemployed and impoverished. Parents killed by disease leave children orphaned and impoverished as well. Chadwick decided, therefore, that it was important to prevent disease, thereby helping society to reach its full potential. His idea helped lead to the first public health law in Great Britain, which in turn led to better health laws in other countries such as France and the United States.

For me, Chadwick’s concept is just as important today. Countries spend billions of dollars on public health, including medical research. Scientists spend countless hours hoping to develop cures and treatments to combat disease. But despite great progress, newly discovered diseases and new strands of known diseases continue causing problems and death. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website, over the last 31 years an average of 36,000 people died annually in the US from contracting the seasonal flu. One might expect that given the amount of progress that has been made in medical research, the flu would have been completely eradicated by now. We put a man on the moon but cannot get rid of the flu, or even the common cold! It is frightening to think about what might happen if there were a major outbreak of the flu or another infectious disease which could not be controlled.  The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed 20-40 million people according to Molly Billings’ article The Influenza Pandemic of 1918. More recently, scientists have been concerned about avian flu, swine flu, and other infectious diseases, which could spread and kill millions of people. There is also great concern about potential harm that could be caused by a bioterrorism attack that deliberately spreads diseases to harm people. Scientists must keep working to prevent the spread of disease (whether spread naturally or purposefully). Hopefully, countries remember Chadwick and continue to provide sufficient resources to scientists to study and cure disease and sicknesses.






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5 Responses to War on Germs

  1. Krissy Bylancik says:

    Madison, you bring up a very interesting point. I most definitely agree with Chadwick’s concept that disease is a limiting factor to peoples’ health and success. I also agree with your point about modern medicine – we have made so many advances towards cures for publicized, deadly, and yet we cannot cure the few disease that are so common. And, at the same time, these common disease appear to be deadly as well. Personally, I’m not quite sure what there is to do about this issue. Of course, it would be great if we could just ask the medical community for a cure, but, sadly, the world does not work that way. I think that one of the things that help are the free flu shots that many of the chain pharmacies give out during “flu season”. That said, for those who are unable to get to one of these pharmacies, or who do not have money to pay for a flu shot that is not free, there could be trouble. As you point out the first section of your post, this uncontrollable disease can spirally easily into something much bigger than it started. If the parent of an impoverished family were to get sick with the flu and, unable to get a flu shot or afford a doctor, dies, then their children would be left orphaned, or with only one parent to rely on. This domino effect is definitely one that could prove to be a problem for our country, and the entire world.

  2. Will says:

    Madison, I agree with the point you raise and Chadwick’s argument certainly has great credibility and truth behind it. I do believe, however, that scientists have made more leaps in bounds in the field of disease control than you credit them for. First and foremost, the flu is obviously much less lethal than it was in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and, it is my opinion that medical researches and doctors cannot be blamed for 36,000 annual deaths due to the flue in the United States: they have already created vaccines against the flue, and it is now the prerogative of the citizens to acquire the proper, and readily available vaccinations. Furthermore, Obamacare has made flue vaccines even more easily available than they were before, and even, at times, for free (http://www.barackobama.com/health-care/). Also, I would like to point out that some of the worse diseases ever, such as polio have been completely eradicated, and, great steps have been taken to prevent and contain other terrible infections such as HIV/AIDS. For example, in Uganda, over a decade, from the early 1990s to 2001, HIV in adults fell significantly from 15% to 7% (http://www.avert.org/global-hiv-prevention.htm).

    Nonetheless, you are right, diseases still run rampant across the earth. The sad truth of this, however, is once the cure for one horrid disease is found, another terrible disease will surface. I would like to point out, that some people view this as a mechanism against exponential population growth, where only the “fittest” humans survive. I personally think that is a grotesque view of disease and all necessary measures should be taken to rid the world of pervasive illness. I would be interested to hear other people’s views on diseases as factors against population growth and survival of the “fittest” humans, which is a part of a school of thought called Social Darwinism.

  3. cmiller2015 says:

    In keeping with my recent theme of relating movies to our class, have any of you seen Contagion? It’s a really interesting film, but not in the ways one might expect. It’s about a new epidemic that spreads across the world killing millions. The film at first seems a bit understated, not reaching the full apocalyptic scope of which it is capable. But the true horror sinks in as you’re walking out of the movie theater: This could actually happen. Despite the war against germs that humans have been waging, there is still much to be done, particularly in other parts of the world. According to the source provided below, 63% of all deaths in Africa are due to contagious diseases. Referring to the article again, tuberculosis, a more or less easily treatable disease with a common vaccine, is one of the major killers of people in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a disease spread through spread of germs. The war on disease is far from over.


  4. Sam says:

    You make a very good point about the health and safety of our modern world. Diseases and germs are everywhere around us. It is just remarkable that the human race has not yet been eliminated by disease or other things of that nature. Overtime many different races of people have been deeply affected by foreign invasive species. One major example would be the travel of the influenza from Europe to the Americas. The Native American population decreased at a exponential rate because they did not have the antibodies to fight the influenza. These examples heighten the idea of finding the cure for our modern germs, diseases and bacteria because it could only take one small microscopic germ to wipe out life as we know it.

    • Madison says:

      Thank you, Sam. I agree that the possibility that all human life could be wiped out by an epidemic is frightening. As the world becomes more interconnected, with people traveling across the globe more frequently than ever, there is an even greater risk that diseases could spread quickly with devastating results. We can only hope, despite the financial difficulties we face here in the US and in Europe, that sufficient funds continue to be devoted to research to learn about and prevent diseases.

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