The Pandemic Issue

turing are no longer usable. The result is the sudden onslaught of an epidemic. The Black Death was undoubtedly brought about by a mutant strain of the microorganism causing it. Eventually, though, those human beings who are most susceptible die, and the relatively resistant survive, so that the vir- ulence of the diseases dies down. In that case, is the human victory over the pathogenic microorganism permanent? Might not new strains of germs arise? They might and they do. Every few years a new strain of flu rises to pester us. It is possible, however, to pro- duce vaccines against such a new strain once it makes an appear- ance. Thus, when a single case of “swine flu” appeared in 1976, a full scale mass-vaccination was set in action. It turned out not to be needed, but it showed what could be done.

Copyright © 1979 by Isaac Asimov, A Choice of Catastrophes: The Disasters That Threaten Our World , originally published by Simon & Schuster. Reprinted with permission from the Asimov estate.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a legendary American author and biochemist who wrote science fiction and popular science books. He wrote or edited about 500 volumes, of which the most famous are those in the Foundation and Robot series.


Isaac Asimov on the History of Infectious Disease — And How Humanity Learned To Fight Back


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