How Epidemics End
Project Description

Recent history tells us a lot about how epidemics unfold, how outbreaks spread, and how they are controlled. We also know a good deal about beginnings–those first cases of pneumonia in Guangdong marking the SARS outbreak of 2002–3, the earliest instances of influenza in Veracruz leading to the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009–10, the outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Guinea sparking the Ebola pandemic of 2014–16. But these stories of rising action and a dramatic denouement only get us so far in coming to terms with the global crisis of COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic has blown past many efforts at containment, snapped the reins of case detection and surveillance across the world, and saturated all inhabited continents. To understand possible endings for this epidemic, we must look elsewhere than the neat pattern of beginning and end–and reconsider what we mean by the talk of “ending” epidemics to begin with.

An additional project of the Johns Hopkins Center for Medical Humanities & Social Medicine Baltimore is Epidemic/Endemic. The project is featured on our website here. The COVID-19 epidemic has starkly illuminated a series of structural forces in health and society that produce endemic disparities. As a result, older questions of inequalities, social relations, and political and economic ideology are now occurring in direct conversation with current issues associated with health and health care systems. The Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine at Johns Hopkins seeks to use this moment to bring scholars together for a yearlong discussion on the role of the COVID-19 epidemic in raising questions of wider importance to the social sciences and the humanities, and vice versa.

Translational Perspective

Our work explicitly translates insights from historical experience with epidemics into understanding structural forces that help determine how we respond to epidemic disease, especially after the perceived "end" of an epidemic.

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Johns Hopkins University
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greene [at]

Baltimore, MD, USA