Current generations may not know that the innocent childhood game "Ring Around the Rosie" is a cultural holdover to the devastation that diseases like the Great Plague and the Black Death wreaked on human populations. Even in the 20th century, infectious diseases were such a dominant threat to the quality of life that Jonas Salk became an unintended folk hero for developing a safe polio vaccine. Today, most people don't remember the heartbreaking and sometimes lethal effects of not vaccinating and hence can't see their own vital role in public health.
That's because we're victims of our own public health success. As vaccine science advanced and vaccination compliance increased, the incidence of measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, and polio decreased precipitously. By 2000, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declared a public health victory, tha...
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