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I've been reading a an excellent book on the development of world cultures called Germs, Guns, and Steel, and it has a chapter on epidemics. Originally, epidemics spread from cattle and other domesticated animals. That's why Europeans, from lands with livestock, were able to bring such devastating germs to the New World. Today, as we know, epidemics are spread from wild animals in the interface between civilization and the wild. But another important factor in the rise of more infectious diseases in recent decades is the increasing travel between continents. Even aside from the current pandemic, this has made hygiene and sanitizing more important than it had been previously.
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