The Affect of War on Disease Eradication

Penicillin July 1943 Science Pub

I received a comment on one of my previous posts regarding the origins of the disease eradication philosophy.  I found it to be a very important and interesting question to consider.  Therefore, I began to contemplate a few reasons that I think may have spurred the “disease eradication philosophy.”

My initial thought is war.  As of many things in this world, war plays a large role in influencing society and technology, whether we like it or not.  Even in this case, war arguably played a role in the inspiration of disease eradication– malaria being a prime example.  Malaria is an ancient disease, so not only did it affect people thousands of years ago, it was an obstacle soldiers  faced during the colonial powers in Africa to WWI, WWII, and still today.  As soldiers went off to malaria ridden countries, they quickly succumbed to tropical diseases.  In fact, in many instances historically, the amount of soldiers dying of malaria was the same, if not more, than those who died in combat.  Many became determined to find ways prevent it.  This explains why malaria became the first disease chosen to eradicate.

Further wars, such as WWI, allowed for a level of mobilization like never before. As you can imagine, this introduced a host of vulnerable people to new diseases. For example, the Spanish Flu (1918-1919) killed anywhere from 50-100 million people. As the world became increasingly more industrialized, mobilized, and globalized, the ability to control diseases became astronomically more difficult, which again, inspired many to find ways to combat and perhaps eradicate diseases.

Another important aspect to consider in the evolution of disease eradication philosophy is the influence of the social and cultural time. One example is the the discovery of penicillin and mass production of it in 1943, the first true, safe antibacterial medicine.  It gave people hope.  If we couple that with the era, we consider the end of WWII, followed by a baby boom, high economic growth, and innovation in America. One could argue that an overwhelming sense of confidence or optimism was established. Penicillin, as a reflection of this time, gave rise to the thought that this “wonder drug” could perhaps conceivably “eradicate” all diseases. As we know, this is not the case and a few years later, penicillin resistant bacteria were reported. Needless to say, this was a very important stepping stone into the improvement of healthcare and technology, which today, the aggregate has saved many lives.  There are many other factors that have shaped and driven disease eradication throughout history, though these are just a few.

~Just a thought.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s