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Open Access Highly Accessed Research Article

Infectious disease emergence and global change: thinking systemically in a shrinking world

Colin D Butler

Infectious Diseases of Poverty 2012, 1:5  doi:10.1186/2049-9957-1-5

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An apology to US Surgeon General William Stewart

Colin Butler   (2013-08-15 15:02)  University of Canberra email

My comment about U.S. Surgeon General William Stewart's dismissal of infectious diseases as a major problem in 1969 - though widely quoted - may have been unfair. According to Dr Brad Spellberg there is considerable doubt about this.(1) Spellberg reports persuasively how he has spent years trying to verify Stewart's statement, with no success. Most citations he could find are circular, i.e. they cite each other.

He adds that the US Public Health Service Web site states that ��Although this remark has often been cited in the literature, the Office of the PHS Historian has never been able to locate the source of the statement, or to confirm that Dr. Stewart actually made such a comment. We have asked Dr. Stewart about it, and he cannot recall whether or not he made this statement��. He suggests that "perhaps it is time to replace Dr. Stewart��s possibly apocryphal quotation with citations from verifiable sources, such as by Dr. Fauci or Dr. Petersdorf .

1. Spellberg B. Dr. William H. Stewart: Mistaken or Maligned? Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2008; 47: 294


Spellberg B. Dr. William H. Stewart: Mistaken or Maligned? Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2008; 47: 294.

Competing interests

I am author of the paper on which I am commenting.

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follow up (comment re US surgeon general)

Colin Butler   (2013-08-15 15:02)  University of Canberra

Dear editor - this is not intended for posting - but I'm just writing to see if you received my earlier comment, sent early December I think. Very pleased that my paper is the most accessed (at least to date). Best wishes, Colin

Competing interests

None declared

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