How have our understandings of existing respiratory diseases helped to frame our account of this pandemic? (Angela Cassidy)

By Angela Cassidy

As humanity meets, identifies and struggles to understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus, scientific and societal understandings of the disease it causes (COVID-19) are rapidly changing. Scientific research, clinical treatments, policy/politics, and wider social representations of this completely new disease are already being framed in terms of several diseases we already know, including viral pneumonia; pandemic influenza; vascular disease; and deep memories of plague. Investigating how these framings are shaping our responses to COVID-19 across multiple contexts is therefore a critical task for social science and humanities scholars of infectious disease. It’s also essential to think through the effects of other, less obvious disease framings, particularly in relation to wildlife and other zoonotic diseases; the mutual shaping of pathogens and inequalities; and the productive potential of remembering our responses to novel infections such as HIV/AIDS and prion/BSE.

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