How Los Alamos is Learning to Track Disease Outbreaks Around the World

In the 14th century, the Black Death devastated Europe. This bacterial disease killed some 200 million people, almost two-thirds of the Europeans then alive. Preventing the spread of the disease became an urgent public health issue, particularly for ports such as Venice. So the Venetian Republic took radical action. The government appointed three guardians of public health whose role was to spot ships carrying infected individuals and exclude them from the seaport. This exercise was the first public health measure ever undertaken by a European government. And it later went further by detaining travelers from plague-infected areas for 40 days to prevent the further spread of the disease. Today, the work of detecting, tracking, and investigating diseases affecting human, animal, and plant health is called biosurveillance. And it is a field…


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