Book Review: Life in a Medieval City

You should know first off that in this book, the word “city” is used loosely. The specific city on which this book focuses is Troyes, a French city in the Champagne region with approximately 10,000 inhabitants in the year 1250. However, Troyes was also a “fair” city which hosted two major merchant fairs every year — the Cold Fair in November-December, and the Hot Fair in May-June. Continue reading Book Review: Life in a Medieval City

Book Review: Inside the Outbreaks

In 1951, the Epidemic Intelligence Service was organized under Dr. Alexander Langmuir as a part of the Centers for Disease Control. At that time, there was already concern about biological warfare in the wake of the developing Cold War and conflict in Korea. EIS fellows (who were literally “fellows” — no women — at that time) served for 2-year terms as investigators into disease outbreaks both domestic and foreign. Their job was to find and identify diseases, determine their sources, and if possible, help the suffering population. Continue reading Book Review: Inside the Outbreaks

Typhus, Lice, and Fighting the Nazis

I completed the book entitled The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl yesterday, a little late but at least I finished (I am notorious for not finishing books). I had to stop reading it for a couple of days due to bad dreams about lice. Seriously.

Typhus is a serious febrile illness that is no longer common. It is spread by body lice (not head lice). The disease was well-known during wartime, especially in the trenches of World War I & II. It spreads quickly in crowded, unsanitary conditions where people are rarely able to wash or change clothes. When the Nazis herded the Jews of cities like Warsaw into ghettos, epidemic typhus struck explosively.

A Polish biologist named Rudolf Weigl began studying typhus during World War I. By WWII, when the Nazis occupied Poland, Weigl had developed a vaccine that was produced using live lice infected with the bacterium. Continue reading Typhus, Lice, and Fighting the Nazis