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Questions about the coronavirus: the epidemic seen in a historical perspective

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The figure above shows the effect of the two major outbursts of plague in Europe (you can find a detailed discussion of this subject in my book "Before the Collapse"). Here, Rorberto Mussi developes a historical perspective of past epidemics and of how that can help us understand the current one. (image from Langer et al., 1964)   Guest Post by Roberto Mussi The COVID-19 epidemic is generating a lot of questions from scientific, medical, political, and societal points of view. It not yet the time for complete answers, they will come slowly in the future together, hopefully, with antiviral treatments. But we can at least ask correct questions: this article tries to do that by looking at past history.The first question that comes to my mind is about the conditions that generate a pandemic outbreak. Are pandemics completely random events or do they spread only when some specific conditions occur in society? Historians can provide information about similar events of the past. They tell us that the "Black Death" arrived in Europe after the economic downturn of the late 13th century (some talk about a true economic revolution occurring between the 11th and 13th centuries [1]). It’s also a pretty intuitive statement: a virus can attack more easily an undernourished population [2]. In modern terms, the reproduction number (R0) depends on the context. In a historical dimension, pandemics are a consequence of a crisis, not a cause. So, the consequent question is: why now? Economic historians teach us [3] that the Western heavy industrial development stopped at some moment in the 1970s. From then on, (only) information related and finance-related innovation flourished [4]. Something similar happened also after the 13th century [5] with, for instance, movable type printing. Of course, we are not experiencing famines as in the 14th century and, as Ugo Bardi [6] notes, this virus is causing a much lower death rate than other historical pandemics. What's at stake, it. . .

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