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Infectious diseases have threatened humanity since the beginning of time, causing more death and illness than all wars of mankind combined. This historical review describes some outbreaks and endemic diseases and examines risk factors and individual, organisational and governmental responses. History teaches us that the most effective responses to mitigating biological disaster require coordination at all levels, from the individual to the state. The past also clearly demonstrates that basic factors such as societal and institutional stability, public health and primary care form the most important pillars of defence against infectious disease. © 2009 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management

Publication Date





262 - 279