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Epidemiology and Historical Epidemiologic Events

Concepts of Epidemiology

One of the concepts of epidemiology is population. The term population refers to a group of persons having a common characteristic and whom public health officials wish to learn about. In the assigned article titled, “Zika arrived in Florida 3 months before detection, study says,” the population of focus were travelers infected with Zika. Distribution is concerned with the pattern and frequency of a health event in a population (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2012). Pattern represents the occurrence of such an event by person, place, and time. Most people infected with the Zika virus did not get sick except pregnant women. There was a lag in the arrival and detection of Zika in Florida. Focus refers to a geographical local which is most impacted by an epidemic.

On the other hand, determinants as an epidemiology concept include “the causes (including agents), risk factors (including exposure to sources), and modes of transmission” (CDC, 2012). Risk factors for becoming diseased with Zika were pregnancy with illness resulting from mosquito bites. Outcomes quantification is concerned with the prevalence and incidence of health-related events. Until later summer 2017, there were 256 cases of Zika infection in Florida (Stobbe, 2017). Lastly, the “Control of health problems” concept of epidemiology involves preventing disease as well as improving the public’s general wellness using information from determinants and distribution. Zika can be controlled by avoiding mosquito bites. For instance, one can use insect repellants.

Description of Historical Events

Bubonic Plaque Epidemics

The bubonic plague epidemics were infectious illnesses caused by Yersinia pestis, a gram-negative bacterium. The human flea and the Indian rat flea are the transmission agents in a plaque. The fleas’ primary hosts are brown sewer rats or black urban rats. The first bubonic plague pandemic was the Justinian plaque that occurred between 541 and 544 (Frith, 2012). The epidemic’s ground zero was Ethiopia in Africa. The primary symptoms of the Justinian plaque were fever and bubonic swelling. The focus of the epidemic was Constantinople, where the mortality rate reached 10000 people per day in 542 (Frith, 2012). Another bubonic plague was the “Black Death” that attacked Europe between 1347 and 1352 (Frith, 2012). Infected persons developed chills, headache, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. The outbreak killed over twenty-five million individuals in Europe and a similar number in Africa.

John Snow’s Cholera Study

John Snow, an English physician, investigated cholera outbreaks in England in 1854. Through his studies, Snow demonstrated for the first time that the cholera epidemics resulted from consuming contaminated water (Merrill, 2017). Snow’s findings reinforced the need for sanitation in public health.

Development of smallpox vaccine and eradication of smallpox

Edward Jenner introduced the first smallpox vaccine in 1976 (Merrill, 2017). The scientist observed that dairymaids who had previously suffered from cowpox had natural immunity against smallpox. Besides, Jenner established that variola virus could be prevented by inoculated vaccinia (Merrill, 2017). Smallpox eradication efforts later employed mass vaccination strategies before shifting to case-finding and ring vaccination.

1918 Influenza Epidemic

The influenza epidemic of 1918 represents one of the severe pandemics that have faced the world in history. An estimated 500 million individuals worldwide were infected with the influenza virus. Deaths occurring from the virus were approximately 50 million globally, with around 675000 occurring in the US (Shanks & Brundage, 2012). The mortality rate was high in the pediatric population, people aged between 20 and 50, and senior citizens. (Shanks & Brundage, 2012). At the start and progression of the pandemic, the world lacked antibiotics or vaccines to treat or protect individuals from influenza.

Identification Of Smoking as A Cause of Cancer

Currently, the link between smoking and cancer is no secret. Scientists and health professionals have known that cigarette smoking contributes to the pathogenesis of cancer since the early 1940s, when epidemiological investigations established a relationship between smoking and the prevalence of lung cancer (Merrill, 2017). In the ‘50s, experiments authenticated that the chemicals present in cigarette smoke caused cancer in rats.

How Learning About Past Historical Epidemiologic Events Help Solve Current and Future Disease Outbreaks

Certainly, learning about past epidemiologic events is critical in solving current as well as future disease outbreaks. Past epidemics represent social laboratories that enable public health professionals to establish a society’s resiliency, the functioning of administrative structures in a pandemic, resources required, and shortcomings. Furthermore, reflecting on historical epidemiological events reveals the responsibilities and roles of healthcare professionals in pandemics. Besides, past pandemics inform healthcare workers about ethical issues likely to be faced when responding to current and future pandemics.


Frith, J. (2012). The history of plague-part 1: The three great pandemics. Journal Of Military and Veterans health, 20(2), 11-16.

Merrill, R. (2017). Introduction to Epidemiology (7th Edition). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Shanks, G. D., & Brundage, J. F. (2012). Pathogenic Responses Among Young Adults During The 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Emerging infectious diseases, 18(2), 201.

Stobbe, M. (2017). Zika arrived in Florida 3 months before detection, study says. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Lesson 1: Introduction to epidemiology. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from,the%20resulting%20public%20health%20action.


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