Philip Alcabes was on The Daily Show recently promoting his book, Dread: How Fear and Fantasy have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to the Avian Flu, and talking about how our fears play a huge part in epidemics — like the recent return of the swine flu. So, with this on my mind, I find Frank DeFreitas’ post on historical hysteria over postal pieces as “carriers” of disease timely and fascinating:
Many letters in the past were opened for fumigation, then closed using sealing wax. The list of diseases that were singled out include plague, yellow fever, typhus fever, cholera and leprosy.
DeFreitas’ post contains many links to suit the most die-hard history detectives (obsessive nerds); I wonder if Alcabes’ book does — and if it even contains the story of disinfected mail?