Emily Kwong

Just over a century ago, a virulent flu outbreak was wreaking havoc on the world.

We know it now as the 1918 influenza pandemic, and its tremors were felt far and wide. By the end of its spread, tens of millions were dead.

The field of public health has taken a giant leap from the days of 1918, when virology was still in its infancy. Today, information is instantaneous and vaccines are in widespread use.

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Three weeks ago, Washington, D.C., resident Rebecca Read Medrano started feeling unwell. She had a dry cough, fatigue, nausea and terrible stomach pains that had her bending over.

There was one more symptom, and it was a bit odd. Medrano had largely lost her sense of taste. "My cousin was cooking, and everything he made tasted weird," she recalls.

The outbreak of wildfires in Australia has reached a tipping point. Thousands of residents were evacuated this week, as bush fires reached the suburban fringes of Sydney, the skies turning blood-red. Coastline towns in the states of New South Wales and Victoria were consumed by the blaze, leaving thousands homeless. Many are stuck behind fire lines, trapped without power or cell service.

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