22nd, January 2012
Great Microbiologists of the Past
It is without doubt that Edward Jenner was an influential microbiologist, considering the discoveries he made, and their effect on humankind today. Jenner’s work was the first of its kind in controlling infectious diseases using vaccination. People today still remember him for discovering and promoting vaccination to eradicate smallpox. However, Jenner is just one among many other microbiologists who have made significant discoveries that are also important to the contemporary society. Therefore, it is not just to bestow all credit to Jenner, when there are other microbiologists who made significant contributions to this field. In fact, some microbiologists made even greater discoveries than those of Jenner.
Apart from Jenner, another one of the most influential microbiologists of all time is Robert Koch, who is even referred to as “the father of microbiology.” Just like Jenner, Koch made important discoveries in microbiology, and this makes him deserve credit as well. His discovery was more important as it offered a solution to a problem that was facing people in that particular period. During the 19th Century, there were two major killer diseases of cholera and tuberculosis. Cholera was incurable, and was even nicknamed, “king cholera.” On the other hand, Tuberculosis made people vomit white substance as their lungs disintegrated. This led people to nickname it, “white death.” People had given up on finding the cure to these diseases, which continued to take lives. However, with Koch’s discovery, humankind had a reason to smile again, when he discovered a remedy for these diseases. Koch lived in an era where people believed that diseases were caused by breathing “bad” air. However, with Koch’s discovery, came the enlightenment of the masses about pathogens and hygiene, which influence diseases. This revelation is more important even than the cure of disease, because if people take heed and practice good hygiene, they will avoid catching many diseases. Therefore, Jenner provided a cure for smallpox, while Koch offered both curative and preventive strategies to disease control (Merril & Timmreck, 2006).
Margaret was another influential microbiologist, who was an expert in the development and standardization of vaccines. She is remembered for having advanced the fight against killer diseases such as whooping cough, typhoid, cholera, anthrax, conjunctivitis, and meningitis. Apart from identifying the cause of whooping cough, Margaret also developed an improved vaccine for the disease. She was also the first woman to be in charge of the lab the NIH. Margaret also served as a World Health Organization consultant for cholera, in addition to being a leader in the standardization of vaccines. Margaret is also remembered for having come up with a remedy for killer disease that had claimed lives of millions of children. During her era, whooping cough was the leading cause of infant deaths. Margaret’s discovery was a milestone in the health department, as well as the country’s economy, as children are the future nation, and without them, a nation is as good as having no future (Merril & Timmreck, 2006).
Microbiologists are important professionals in society today. The contemporary microbiologists employ some of the past microbiologists’ scientific principles, which act as a foundation for their practice today. The role of microbiologists today keep evolving each day, as humankind experience new forms of diseases such as helicobacter, and new phenomena such as bio-terrorism, which they have to solve. However, these still use the medical knowledge of past microbiologists to diagnose and treat old diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis. Therefore, both past and modern microbiologists should be appreciated equally as they all contribute positively to the field of microbiology today.
The 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus (Swine Flu) Epidemic in the United States
Throughout history, different epidemics have hit different parts of the world and claimed many human lives. In United States of America, different epidemics have affected the nation and claimed many lives at some stages in history. However, the most recent epidemic to hit was the H1N1 Flu Virus. This was experienced in April 2009, and claimed close to 4,000 lives. Those who had contracted the virus were 22 million, while those who needed to be hospitalized were close to 100,000. Worldwide, the disease claimed approximately 16,000 lives (“New York Times,” 2013).
This swine flu was caused by a new strain of H1N1 virus, which comprised of human influenza, swine, and avian viruses. Normally, swine flu affects pigs and those people who had close contact with pigs. However, this kind of swine flu affected even those people who did not have close contact with pigs. This flu was first detected in Mexico, but crossed borders to reach America and other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom. Therefore, people travelling from one country to another were instrumental in the spread of the virus (Macnair, 2013).
Swine flu can be caused or contracted in a variety of ways. First, it is important to note that this flu is highly contagious. It does spread in the same way as the other ordinary flu. People who are infected with swine flu should be isolated so that they do not pass the disease to the healthy people. Infected people cough, sneeze, and release mucus droplets in the air, which contain the virus. If an uninfected person gets into contact with these droplets, they automatically catch the disease as well. What is more devastating is that, a person who has H1N1 virus in its window period, without symptoms, is still capable of infecting other people. This window period however, takes a total of seven days. However, children can be contagious to up to ten days (“New York Times,” 2013).
When this pandemic broke out, there were various ways the health department dealt with this to control further deaths. Mainly, the affected people were hospitalized. In the hospitals, these were treated using some of the antiviral drugs used to treat seasonal cold. Examples of some of the most effective antiviral drugs in treating swine flu include Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). These antiviral drugs have the effect of reducing the severity of swine flu as well as cutting short the length period of swine flu. Although this curative measure was employed, it did not work out effectively, as more deaths were experienced. Nonetheless, it significantly reduced the number of deaths. After this pandemic, most Americans were encouraged to get a H1N1 vaccination, as a preventive measure of future H1N1 virus epidemics. This vaccination is in the form of flu shots, or nasal spray flu vaccine. These virus vaccine forms help the bodies learn how to counter the real H1N1 viruses when they attack. Public health education through the media and other avenues also played an important role in educating the masses about the precaution to take during such an epidemic, to prevent further spread of the virus (Macnair, 2013).
Macnair, T. (2013). “Swine flu.” BBC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/swineflumulti1.shtml
Merril, R. & Timmreck, T. (2006). “Introduction to Epidemiology.” New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
New York Times. (Tuesday, January 22, 2013). “Swine Flu (H1N1 Virus).” Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/i/influenza/swine_influenza/index.html
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