What to learn from pandemics of the past

Isolation station
The last large-scale quarantine in the United States took place during the 1918 flu pandemic.
National Museum of Health and Medicine, AFIP

COVID-19 is far from the first pandemic we’ve faced. While many make comparisons to the 1918 flu, we shouldn’t forget about challenging viral and bacterial illnesses of the past like the 1930 parrot fever pandemic, AIDS or Legionnaires outbreaks.

And even with improved medical and scientific knowledge about how to cure and prevent illness, we can’t discount viruses and pandemics. As author Mark Honigsbaum writes, “the only thing that is certain is that there will be new plagues and new pandemics. It is not a question of if, we are told, but when.”

MPR News host Kerri Miller and Honigsbaum talked Tuesday to discuss what we can learn from pandemics and illnesses of the past as we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic. 


  • Mark Honigsbaum is a medical historian, journalist and writer. His latest book is “The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris.”

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS.

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