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Study of ancient and modern plagues finds common features ^ | November 21, 2008 | NA

Posted on 11/21/2008 9:01:03 PM PST by neverdem

In 430 B.C., a new and deadly disease—its cause remains a mystery—swept into Athens. The walled Greek city-state was teeming with citizens, soldiers and refugees of the war then raging between Athens and Sparta. As streets filled with corpses, social order broke down. Over the next three years, the illness returned twice and Athens lost a third of its population. It lost the war too. The Plague of Athens marked the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Greece.

The Plague of Athens is one of 10 historically notable outbreaks described in an article in The Lancet Infectious Diseases by authors from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The phenomenon of widespread, socially disruptive disease outbreaks has a long history prior to HIV/AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H5N1 avian influenza and other emerging diseases of the modern era, note the authors.

"There appear to be common determinants of disease emergence that transcend time, place and human progress," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., one of the study authors. For example, international trade and troop movement during wartime played a role in both the emergence of the Plague of Athens as well as in the spread of influenza during the pandemic of 1918-19. Other factors underlying many instances of emergent diseases are poverty, lack of political will, and changes in climate, ecosystems and land use, the authors contend. "A better understanding of these determinants is essential for our preparedness for the next emerging or re-emerging disease that will inevitably confront us," says Dr. Fauci.

"The art of predicting disease emergence is not well developed," says David Morens, M.D., another NIAID author. "We know, however, that the mixture of determinants is becoming ever more complex, and out of this increased complexity comes increased opportunity for diseases to reach epidemic proportions quickly."

For example, more people travel more often over greater distances and in less time now than at any time in the past. One consequence of the increased mobility in the modern age can be seen in the 2003 outbreak of the novel illness SARS, which rapidly spread from Hong Kong to Toronto and elsewhere as infected passengers traveled by air.

To better understand and predict disease emergence, Dr. Morens and his coauthors stress the need for research aimed at broadly understanding infectious diseases as well as specifically understanding how disease-causing microorganisms make the jump from animals to humans.

In a narrow sense, epidemics are caused by particular microorganisms, and the study of infectious disease has historically been microbe-focused. For example, the Black Death (bubonic plague), which killed some 34 million Europeans in the middle of the 14th century, was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. In a broader sense, however, epidemics are caused by complex and not fully predictable interactions between the disease-causing microbe, the human host and multiple environmental factors, the authors note. The Black Death, for instance, was borne westward along newly established land and sea trade routes from its probable origin, China, into multiple European countries. Similarly, patterns of human movement along trade routes, specifically truck routes throughout Africa, played a role in the spread of HIV throughout that continent. Greater consideration must be given, say the NIAID authors, to broader, interlinked factors such as climate, urbanization, increased international travel and the rise of drug-resistant microbes, and the ways in which these factors combine to spark new epidemics.

Aside from commerce and travel, the NIAID authors point to several other factors that underlie many notable emerging diseases: poverty, the breakdown of public hygiene practices, and susceptibility of human populations to microbes against which they have no pre-existing immunity. This last factor played a key role in the smallpox epidemic that afflicted the Aztecs of 16th century Mexico. Smallpox had ravaged European communities for centuries, but until the Spanish arrived on the Yucatan coast in 1519, the disease was unknown in the New World. Historians believe that some 3.5 million people in central Mexico died in the first year of the epidemic.

Epidemics also can spur advances in public health, note the authors. They point to the yellow fever epidemics of 1793-98, which began in the then-U.S. capital, Philadelphia. Though the entire federal government and most Philadelphians fled, those who remained formed an emergency government and mobilized such marginalized groups as African-Americans and immigrants to fight the outbreak. In 1798, Congress established the Marine Hospital System—forerunner of the modern U.S. Public Health Service—to provide, at public expense, medical care for sick and injured merchant seamen. Historians generally agree that a prime impetus for creating the Marine Hospital System was the yellow fever epidemics.

Modern epidemiology began in reaction to another epidemic, says Dr. Morens. In the early 1830s, as cholera made its way along waterways from Asia towards Europe, French officials attempted to prepare their country in advance of an outbreak. Teams of scientists were sent to Poland and Russia to observe the outbreaks there. Throughout France, coastal health agencies and new quarantine stations were established; in Paris, a network of health inspection offices was created to coordinate inspection of wells, cesspools and latrines of both public and private buildings. Despite these efforts, cholera arrived in Paris on March 29, 1832, with explosive effect—within two weeks, there were 1,000 cases, 85 percent of them fatal. Daily newspapers published lists of cases allowing armchair epidemiologists to see trends in illness and deaths. "For the first time in history," write the NIAID authors, "a large-scale emerging epidemic was scientifically investigated in 'real time' using census data in a prospective population-based approach that featured analyses of morbidity and mortality stratified by age-group, sex, occupation, socioeconomic status and location."

Source : NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: antonineplague; blackdeath; blackplague; bubonicplague; epidemiology; godsgravesglyphs; health; helixmakemineadouble; medicine; plagueofathens; plagueofjustinian; plagues; yersiniapestis
Emerging infections: a perpetual challenge.
1 posted on 11/21/2008 9:01:03 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem; Mother Abigail; Smokin' Joe; RandallFlagg


2 posted on 11/21/2008 9:03:38 PM PST by null and void (0bama is Gorbachev treating a dying system with the same poison that's killing it in the first place)
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To: 2ndreconmarine; Fitzcarraldo; Covenantor; Mother Abigail; EBH; Dog Gone; ...

Ping (historical epidemics) Thanks, nully!

3 posted on 11/21/2008 9:08:48 PM PST by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly.)
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To: Smokin' Joe; yefragetuwrabrumuy

Thanks, SJ.

Pinging ye.

4 posted on 11/21/2008 9:12:03 PM PST by LucyT (.......................Don't go wobbly now.......................)
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To: SunkenCiv


5 posted on 11/21/2008 9:15:54 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: Smokin' Joe

Thank you for the ping. I wonder what the next pandemic will be, and when.

6 posted on 11/21/2008 9:22:14 PM PST by Judith Anne
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To: neverdem

When it hit the US in 1832, Asiatic cholera, a waterborne disease, was thought to be airborne, so piles of coal and sulfur were set up around cities and then burned so as to create huge clouds of acrid smoke that would hinder the spread of the disease. Asiatic cholera was spread throughout the Midwest by soldiers sent to fight the Blackhawk War in 1832.

7 posted on 11/21/2008 9:28:30 PM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: neverdem
They done extensive research and have concluded that plagues are contagious.


8 posted on 11/21/2008 9:32:37 PM PST by JasonC
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To: Fiji Hill

I wonder if it might have helped anyway. That is, when you burn sulfurous coal or sulfur, it produces sulfur dioxide, which when mixed with water, produces sulfuric acid, like acid rain. So open sources of water would become acidified.

This is important, because cholera prefers alkaline water.

9 posted on 11/21/2008 9:42:45 PM PST by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: neverdem
Here's the link to the PDF of the actual article. NIH is pretty good about that, unlike a lot of "journals" that charge an arm and a leg for every scrap.

10 posted on 11/21/2008 10:18:39 PM PST by irv
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To: irv

Thanks for the link. How did you locate it? I expected to find something at PubMed to PubMedCentral, but they just had the link to full text at Lancet for money.

11 posted on 11/21/2008 10:55:56 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
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To: neverdem

Informative, thought-provoking read. Thank you for the ping.

12 posted on 11/22/2008 3:38:41 AM PST by Alia
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To: neverdem

Hint, stay out of public Baths and Brothels.

13 posted on 11/22/2008 4:16:51 AM PST by MrPiper
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To: neverdem
Stupid example. As the article says, the plague hit Athens 430-427 B.C. Athens finally lost the Peloponnesian War in 404 B.C., twenty three years later. As for the Golden Age of Greece, Philip II and the Macedonians didn't move in and shut down the party for another century.

Little iffy on the cause and effect here guys.

14 posted on 11/22/2008 4:31:16 AM PST by Cheburashka (Democratic Underground: where PCP is not just for breakfast anymore.)
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To: neverdem

I wanted to read the article, but the journal wants over 30 bucks for it :(

15 posted on 11/22/2008 4:41:42 AM PST by mewzilla (In politics the middle way is none at all. John Adams)
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To: neverdem

I must get this full report.

16 posted on 11/22/2008 8:27:52 AM PST by AliVeritas (Pray, Pray, Pray)
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To: neverdem
How did you locate it?

Dumb luck. When I saw it came out of NIH I was pretty sure it would be available through their website. They're pretty good about sharing info.

17 posted on 11/22/2008 8:48:25 AM PST by irv
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To: mewzilla; AliVeritas

Check comment# 10. It’s a 10 page pdf link.

18 posted on 11/22/2008 7:04:58 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
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To: JasonC
They done extensive research and have concluded that plagues are contagious.


It's a review article by one of the top infectious disease docs in the country.

19 posted on 11/22/2008 7:07:59 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
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thanks neverdem:

Garlic Chemical Tablet Treats Diabetes I And II, Study Suggests
Science Daily | Nov. 19, 2008 | Science Daily
Posted on 11/21/2008 11:11:34 PM PST by FocusNexus

20 posted on 11/23/2008 2:29:01 PM PST by SunkenCiv ( finally updated Saturday, October 11, 2008 !!!)
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To: blam; martin_fierro; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

Thanks neverdem.

Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach

· Google · Archaeologica · ArchaeoBlog · Archaeology magazine · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Mirabilis · Texas AM Anthropology News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo ·
· History or Science & Nature Podcasts · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·

21 posted on 11/23/2008 2:30:34 PM PST by SunkenCiv ( finally updated Saturday, October 11, 2008 !!!)
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To: Ciexyz

Whoops! And thanks Ciexyz.

22 posted on 11/23/2008 2:30:58 PM PST by SunkenCiv ( finally updated Saturday, October 11, 2008 !!!)
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To: neverdem; SunkenCiv

23 posted on 11/23/2008 2:40:08 PM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: neverdem
The authors are stretching. Athens kept fighting that war for 27? years after the plague, getting back on its feet each time it had a downturn. It was hubris that beat them, as well as trying to conquer Sicily. Try tried twice! It's like losing the Normandy invasion force, and then turning around and having the common resolve to send in a second expeditionary force of equal size by popular vote. Hubris, but there's nothing quite like the Greeks.
24 posted on 11/23/2008 2:41:00 PM PST by Styria
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To: SunkenCiv
Fruits of globalism coming to your neighborhood soon.

This is what I worried about globalization back in 90's when it gained momentum: the increased possibility of new pandemic sweeping the world. Even considering the benefit of globalization this gave me a pause.

Obviously, we had "financial pandemic" first. However, this one can still come.

25 posted on 11/23/2008 6:56:31 PM PST by TigerLikesRooster (kim jong-il, chia head, ppogri, In Grim Reaper we trust)
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