As most of us know, disease can take many forms, from the plague to botulism to polio to influenza to the common cold to cancer. Some are contagious between people, some are genetic, and some can be contracted through food or contact with infected animals. Some diseases are considered normal or insignificant, such as acne, while others, like lung cancer, may have a stigma attached, due to the lifestyle that likely caused it.
Diseases have a phenomenal impact on society--they shape whole professions, spawn branches of government, drive demand for products, and create events such as fundraisers and public awareness campaigns, even when there's not an epidemic at the time.
Epidemics can create fear, re-direct entire economies, and impose crippling trade and travel restrictions.
If you're working with a fantasy-style world, you have endless possibilities for diseases and plenty of help from historical examples. Quarantine tactics? Check out ancient practices regarding leprosy. How trade can impact the spread of disease? Look no further than the plague. (Liz might be happy to talk to you about it).
Old fashioned medicine/home remedies and ancient ideas of medicine are also interesting, but I think we'll save those for another day.
Just because you're working with a more contemporary or futuristic world doesn't mean that you get to miss out on the fun. What new or emerging diseases are there? How will this affect your world and your characters' journey? Are antibiotics still effective, or do they work against too few pathogens to be of use?
Disease Fun Facts
-Rabies travels from the site of entrance to the brain along nerves at a rate of about 3mm a day, but no symptoms are shown until it reaches the brain.
-According to the CDC, there were at least 15 cases of the plague in the U.S. last year.
-According to MythBusters, sneezes only travel about 30-40 miles per hour, not the 100 mph typically cited.
Friday Fiction Fix will be on Thursday this week and will feature a special interview with Christian Fantasy author Jaye L. Knight.