LIMA — Pandemics of the past offer a blueprint for the present, a lesson Lima schools students are learning through the William Fowler Science Series on infectious diseases and public health responses.
“There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the way in which we reacted to pandemics and epidemics historically — especially the case of the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1918 and 1919,” said Stanley Blake, an associate professor of history at The Ohio State University-Lima, who shared some of those lessons with Lima schools students during a special Zoom lecture on Tuesday.
Blake has been teaching the history of public health, medicine and disease at OSU-Lima for years, but the course has become increasingly popular since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly among nursing and pre-medical students.
His lesson for Lima’s high school students: public health interventions like social isolation, sanitation and vaccination still practiced today brought past epidemics like the flu, smallpox and cholera under control before the invention of antibiotics and other modern medicines.
Those lessons are personal for Timothy Mosher, a nurse practitioner and retired fire chief who traveled to Liberia for 12 days during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
While there, Mosher helped care for Dr. Kent Brantly, an American physician who traveled to Liberia alongside Mosher and subsequently contracted Ebola. Left untreated, Mosher said, Ebola kills about 90% of people infected. Those who are treated have a 40% chance of survival.
Bryant survived, and Mosher returned safely to the U.S. after two weeks of treating Bryant and other patients in Liberia.
The epidemic was eventually brought under control with the help of a new vaccine.
Now, Mosher tells students to trust and learn the science as they navigate the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The best thing to do is to study the science,” Mosher told the class, “and then you know what your parameters are.”
The series is named for William A. Fowler, who grew up in Lima and graduated from Central High School in 1929. He went on to The Ohio State University and California Institute of Technology. He was recognized with a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for providing an explanation of how chemical elements of the universe were formed following the “Big Bang.” The overpass at Jameson Avenue and Elida Road now bears his name.