From plague to polio: How do pandemics end?

History provides a window into how the coronavirus outbreak might come to a close

A polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan. History proves that pandemics have never ended at the same moment for everyone. While polio is a thing of the past for people in Europe, the Americas and Australia, it remains a stubborn health menace in small parts of Africa and South Asia. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

(FINANCIAL TIMES) - In the mid-17th century as Britain battled outbreaks of smallpox, plague and typhus, statistician John Graunt, widely viewed as the founder of epidemiology, sat poring over four decades of mortality records collected by parish clerks.

These "Bills of Mortality", he had realised by 1666, could be used to prove a simple idea: that epidemics ended not when the disease disappeared but when deaths returned to rates seen in normal times.

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