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List of historical plagues

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Christa Jenneman
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« on: February 21, 2010, 09:47:43 am »

List of historical plagues

In human history, the term plague refers to an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality, i.e. a pestilence. An epidemicódisease outbreaks that strike a large number of people in an area at the same timeómay also become a pandemic when it spreads over a wide geographical area or throughout many countries. Bubonic plague, typhus, smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, influenza, scarlet fever, malaria, diphtheria, and poliomyelitis are some infectious diseases that have resulted in epidemic or pandemic outbreaks.

Plagues of disease are a major factor in the development of human civilization, impacting and altering the course of wars, migrations, population growth, urbanization, industry, and cultural development. The term carries such extreme connotations that it is often synonymous with a "calamity", projecting an image of a disastrous evil or affliction.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2010, 09:48:43 am »

Plagues in history

Plagues retain an important place in human history. Humanity has always been vulnerable to and fearful of infectious disease, which has wrought misery, devastation, and havoc throughout the world since ancient times. Times of pestilence have interrupted human affairs and brought great suffering which, in historic times, has often been described and reported in detail. Outbreaks result in extreme loss of life and damage to institutions and economies.

In early cities, large populations were concentrated into crowded communities that often had limited access to fresh water and unregulated disposal of waste. In these communities, waves of disease, whatever the agent of infection, created terror and panic. Accounts of armies that were depleted or defeated by bouts of infection stretch back to the ancient world, and epidemics have frequently ruined the plans and ambitions of military leaders.

Two well-known examples of the impact of disease on history are the Black Death, which periodically visited various peoples throughout Asia and Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries, and the overwhelming pandemics of measles and smallpox, as well as other Eurasian diseases, which Europeans brought to people in the New World. Both of these devastating occurrences were made more severe by the fact that each population was "biologically naïve". When a population that has been relatively isolated is exposed to a new disease or a group of new diseases, it has no inborn resistance; the human body succumbs at a much higher rate, resulting in what is known as a "virgin soil" epidemic.

During the disease outbreak of the Middle Ages, the single word "plague" was associated with a disease which reached epidemic and even pandemic proportions in Asia and Europe. The general consensus is that this was caused by bubonic plague and its variants, disease of the lymphatic system caused by the bacillus Yersinia pestis, which can be spread by fleas from rodents to humans. However, recent investigations have suggested otherwise, with some research suggesting that the ongoing outbreaks were caused by a viral hemorrhagic disease, perhaps similar to Ebola.[1]
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2010, 09:48:55 am »

The disease was known in isolated pockets in Asia but had rarely been seen west of the Byzantine empire. Sweeping outbreaks in Medieval Europe drastically decreased the population, disrupting several vital civilizations and are considered to have significantly altered the course of human affairs.

Before the European arrival, the Americas had been largely isolated from the Eurasian–African landmass. First large-scale contacts between Europeans and native people of the American continents brought overwhelming pandemics of measles and smallpox, as well as other Eurasian diseases. These diseases spread rapidly among native peoples, often ahead of actual contact with Europeans, and led to a drastic drop in population and the collapse of American cultures. Smallpox and other diseases invaded and crippled the Aztec and Inca civilizations in Central and South America in the 16th century. This disease, with loss of population and death of military and social leaders, contributed to the downfall of both American empires and the subjugation of American peoples to Europeans. Philbrick and others have posited that a devastating smallpox epidemic, likely spread to the New World by European cod fisherman, in the decade before 1620 was the only reason that the land chosen for the Plymouth colony was not inhabited when the pilgrim settlers arrived and, in fact, the resulting weakness and instability of the various New England native tribes is likely the only reason the Plymouth Colony was able to survive and eventually thrive in the New World.

Diseases, however, passed in both directions; syphilis was carried back from the Americas and swept through the European population, killing large numbers.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2010, 09:49:59 am »

Ongoing danger

The danger posed by epidemic disease has not been eliminated by modern health and hygiene practices. The ever-enlarging human population, rapid international transportation, developing resistance to medication by known disease agents, insect resistance to insecticides, and medical complacency have all generated new strains of old diseases and increased the possibility of epidemics caused by emerging new diseases.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2010, 09:50:21 am »

Major plague outbreaks
This list contains famous or well-documented outbreaks of plagues or disease. They are examined in individual entries:

    * European plague (1400 BC)[2]
          o causal agent: unknown
    * Great Plague of Athens (430–427 BC)
          o causal agent: bubonic plague/smallpox/measles/typhus/anthrax/typhoid?
    * Antonine Plague (165–180)
          o causal agent: smallpox/measles?
    * Plague of Cyprian (250)
          o causal agent: smallpox/measles?
    * Plague of Justinian (541–542)
          o causal agent: bubonic plague or possibly viral hemorrhagic plague
    * Plague of Emmaus (18 A.H. / 639 A.D.)
          o causal agent: unknown
    * Plague of Constantinople (747–748)
    * The "Black Death" of 1347–1351:[1][3]
          o Great Plague of England (1348–1350)
                + causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
          o Great Plague of Ireland (1348–1351)
                + causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
          o Great Plague of Scotland (1348–1350)
                + causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
          o Great Plague of Portugal, the so called Peste Negra (black plague) (1348–1348?), the year of the Black Plague
                + causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
          o Great Plague of Russia (1349–1353)
                + causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
    * Great Plague of Iceland (1402–1404)[1]
          o causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
    * American Epidemics (Results of Columbian Exchange) (1492-1950s?)
          o causal agent: cholera, influenza, malaria, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, tuberculosis, typhoid, yellow fever
    * Plague of 1575, Italy, Sicily and segments of Northern Europe (1571–1576)
          o causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
    * London Plague (1592–1594)
          o causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
    * Italian Plague of 1629–1631 or Great Plague of Milan (1629–1631)
          o causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
    * Plague causing the end of the Ming Dynasty in China (1641-1644)
          o causal agent: unknown
    * Great Plague of Seville (1649)
          o causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
    * Great Plague of London (1665–1666)
          o causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
    * Great Plague of Vienna (1679–1670s)
          o causal agent: hemorrhagic plague
    * Great Plague of Marseille (1720–1722)
          o causal agent: possibly bubonic plague?
    * Russian plague of 1770-1772
          o causal agent: possibly bubonic plague?
    * The Third Pandemic, originated in China (1855–1950s)
          o causal agent: bubonic plague.
    * 1994 plague epidemic in Surat
          o causal agent: possibly pneumonic plague?
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2010, 09:50:38 am »

One of the earliest documented plagues is the Amarna Period plague (14th century BC) in Egypt, which may be the cause of the sudden abandonment of the city of Akhet-Aten (today El-Amarna). Bubonic plague,[4] polio and influenza[5] have been suggested as its causal agent. The epidemic spread through the Middle East.
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Christa Jenneman
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2010, 09:51:11 am »

Further reading

    * Twigg, Graham (1984). The Black Death: A Biological Appraisal. London: Batsford Academic.

    * Biddle, Wayne (2002). A Field Guide to Germs (2nd Anchor Books edition ed.). New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 140003051X. OCLC 50154403.

    * Scott, Susan, and C. J. Duncan (2004). Return of the Black Death: The World's Greatest Serial Killer. England: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0470090014.

    * Scott, Susan, and C. J. Duncan (2001). Biology of Plagues: Evidence from Historical Populations. Cambridge, UK; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521801508. OCLC 44811929.

References

   1. ^ a b c Scott, Susan, and C. J. Duncan (2004-07-01). Return of the Black Death: The World's Greatest Serial Killer. England: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0470090014.
   2. ^ 3,400-year-old epidemic still plagues humans today: study
   3. ^ Scott, Susan, and C. J. Duncan (2001). Biology of Plagues: Evidence from Historical Populations. Cambridge, UK; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521801508. OCLC 44811929.
   4. ^ Arielle Kozloff, in "Bubonic Plague in the Reign of Amenhotep III?" (KMT, 17, 3 (Fall 2006), pp. 36-46)
   5. ^ Ancient Egypt Online Akhenaten Accessed 21 Feb 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_historical_plagues
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