Body Horrors Talks Disease & Society on Skeptically Speaking

By Rebecca Kreston | July 8, 2013 10:05 am

This past May I had the pleasure to chat with Desiree Schell of the radio and podcast show Skeptically Speaking about how infectious diseases and parasites can shape society for an episode examining the impact of science and medicine on specific communities. Over at their website, you can download the hour-long episode “Community Specific Science” featuring myself, Danielle Lee and Dr. Joe Henrich and hear more about how science journalism and the social sciences are investigating the ways in which the livelihoods and health of certain groups – delineated by ethnicity, culture or religion  – are affected by scientific research and medicine. Lee speaks for the first third of the episode on the state of science coverage in media that serves minority audiences, while Henrich finishes the show with his research on cultural outliers, those societies not generally considered Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, or Democratic – what Dr. Henrich refers to as WEIRD – and the state of behavioral research.

Desiree and I spoke about many of the concepts and ideas that underpin the writing of this blog: how anthropology, sociology and geography inform public health and shape the transmission of infectious diseases. Articles from the blog discussed in the interview include the possibility of bloodborne disease transmission during the annual Hajj to Mecca and the prevalence of the parasitic infection echinococcus among the Turkana tribe in Kenya due to their uniquely functional relationship with the pariah dogs that serve as their nursemaids, dishwashers and livestock herders. We also spoke of herpes simplex virus strain 7 (HPV-7) among fishmongers and butchers as well as an interesting outbreak of Salmonella in the 1981 due not to contamination of foodstuffs but … marijuana.

It’s a fun and informative podcast exploring that rich, interactive and messy area between science and culture/society. Go on and have a listen here! Or download the episode for a commute or road trip in the future.

Many thanks to Desiree for interviewing me and possessing the excellent craft to make our hour-long interview seem more like a friendly conversation, to Rachelle Saunders for organizing the logistics of our interview, and to the Skeptically Speaking crew for editing and producing the podcast. Also, thank you to Hannah Waters of Culturing Science and to Maryn McKenna of Superbug for giving me valuable how-to advice on prepping for a radio interview.

To read the Body Horrors’ articles covered in the interview, check out:

Buzz Kill: Blood-Borne Disease Transmission at the Hajj

Man’s Best Friend, the Turkana Tribe & a Gruesome Parasite

Of Warts & Men: Meat-Handlers Infected with Human Papillomavirus 7

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener: A Marijuana-Borne Salmonella Outbreak

Microbial Misadventures: Exploits in Botulism & Pruno In Our Prison Population


Body Horrors

Body Horrors looks at the history, anthropology and geography of infectious diseases and parasites.

About Rebecca Kreston

Rebecca Kreston is an infectious disease scholar trained in microbiology and epidemiology. She obtained her Biology degree from Reed College and her Masters of Science in Tropical Medicine from Tulane University. She's lived in tropical jungles, beaches and deserts around the world and has been exposed to several of the diseases that she studies. She currently lives in New Orleans, is a fourth year medical student and regularly battles insects of the Diptera, Siphonaptera and Hymenoptera orders.

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