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The Germs That Transformed History

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The Covid-19 pandemic is an almost unique phenomenon in world history. The only precedent for its rapid spread to every continent, killing people everywhere and devastating both local economies and world trade, was the flu pandemic of 1918-19.

In both cases, the germs behind the pandemic weren’t especially lethal. Covid-19 and the flu both fall within the normal range of mild infectious diseases. Compared with smallpox and Ebola, they kill only a small percentage of their victims, and their person-to-person transmissibility…

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