Anthony Van Dyck's Saint Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo/The Conversation (with apologies)
The things we find hard to balance during COVID-19 – individual freedoms versus the group, accountability versus blame, science versus personal beliefs – are centuries old and deeply human.
A 19th-century engraving depicts the Angel of Death descending on Rome during the Antonine plague.
J.G. Levasseur/Wellcome Collection
Societies and cultures that seem ossified and entrenched can be completely upended by pandemics, which create openings for conquest, innovation and social change.
Dan Peled/AAP Image
Australia's island identity and attitude to border security was forged from handling pandemics since the time of federation. Here's what we've learned along the way.
A comet depicted in medieval times in the Bayeux tapestry.
In medieval times natural phenomena, such as comets and eclipses, were regarded as portents of natural disasters, including plagues.
Dance of Death, Michael Wolgemut (1493).
It is generally assumed that this disease-control technique goes back to the 1840s, but it's actually much older.
Woodcut from 1665 depicting the Black Death.
From the Black Death to COVID-19, there have always been those who think good Christian practice will save them from death.
There were eerie similarities between Pepys’ time and our own.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Sure, there were no Zoom calls or ventilators. But thanks to a prolific diarist, we can see some striking similarities, from daily death counts to quack remedies.
Nearly lost at sea, Robinson Crusoe lands on an island only to reckon with isolation, solitude and his own life.
Culture Club/Hulton Archive via Getty Images
Isolation. Despair. Facing our demons. What does the most-translated novel tell us about living with COVID-19?
Crinolines, by design, made physical contact nearly impossible.
Hulton Archive/Stringer via Getty Images
In the past, maintaining physical distance was an important aspect of public life – and clothes played a big role.
Body temperature scans are one tool to interrupt the spread of disease by travelers.
Travelers may undergo screenings at airports to control the spread of coronavirus. Research shows that these efforts have little to no effect on slowing the spread of disease.
A 1411 depiction of a man and woman suffering with bubonic plague, or “Black Death”.
Everett Historical/ Shutterstock
Misinformation and "fake news" was also widespread during the Black Death.
What happened to make plague able to cause devastating epidemics, as in this depiction from 1349?
Pierart dou Tielt/Wikimedia
People caught and died from plague long before it caused major epidemics like the Black Death in the middle ages. Could what scientists call cultural resistance be what kept the disease under control?
Children at a school in Antananarivo, Madagascar, during a plague outbreak, Oct. 3, 2017.
AP Photo/Alexander Joe, File
Where do plague bacteria go between outbreaks? Research demonstrates that they can survive and replicate inside amoebae that are widely present in soil and water worldwide.
Plague still exists in wild rodents and eradication probably isn’t possible.
A plague outbreak in Madagascar has killed 170 people. Here's what you need to know about treatment options and chances it will spread.
The Bubonic plague slowed urbanisation, industrial development and economic growth in Europe for many years.
Despite being so small they can't be seen with the naked eye, pathogens that cause human disease have greatly affected the way humans live for centuries.
It’s the ability of our immune system to remember past infections, and pass this memory on to our kids, that allows us to survive infectious diseases.
With so many microbes capable of hijacking and destroying us, how are we, as a species, still enduring?
Apartheid sought to divide blacks and whites in all spheres of life.
The rhetoric of racial purity is full of suggestive terms like illness, weakening and dilution. These imply the medicalisation of the nation.
Uncollected rubbish provides food and shelter for rodents which can spread plague if they pick up the bacteria.
Plague, one of the deadliest diseases in the world, has been reported in several African countries in the past decade.
Yersinia pestis bacteria start to target the lungs and become so deadly?
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
It's a deadly bacterium that can spread like wildfire. New research suggests Yersinia pestis first developed its ability to cause lung infection and then evolved to be highly infectious.
A model of the bubonic plague bacterium, which is known as Yersina pestis.
Cases of plague have been reported in the Chinese city of Yumen, where a man has died of the disease. Control measures taken by the authorities include travel restrictions in and out of the city, and 151…