[Homestead] Pandemics change world history

tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Mon Feb 7 09:58:59 EST 2005


    <http://english.pravda.ru/>

Plague and flu change history of the world - 01/27/2005 17:50

The history of humanity is inseparable from the history of epidemics

  Specialists distinguish outbursts of serious infectious diseases into 
pandemics and epidemics. Millions of people may die all over the world 
as a result of a pandemic, whereas an epidemic is of a smaller scale.

  Several large-scale pandemics have been registered in the history of 
the human civilization. The majority of them were of zoonotic character, 
when people caught diseases from animals. Smallpox, diphtheria, flu and 
TB are the diseases that carry a global danger.

  A large number of people may die from illnesses, which are usually not 
referred to as life-threatening. Flu is the brightest example: the 
mutating ability of the flu virus turns the disease into a more 
dangerous form every 40 years. The whole world was grieving in 1918, 
when it was struck with the Spanish flu virus. This epidemic can be 
categorized as one of the first epidemics of the globalization epoch. 
The epidemic started prior to the end of WWI. Wartime conditions were 
perfect for the fast distribution of the virus. Millions of people were 
suffering from the lack of water and healthy food, soldiers were 
physically exhausted and the weather was cold and windy. It took the 
virus mere weeks to strike Germany, France, Italy and other countries of 
Central Europe. When the war was over, soldiers took the virus to 
America, Africa, Australia and Asia, as they were returning to their 
homes. Spanish flu killed about 17 million people in India and 200 
thousand in England. Every fourth American had the virus during the 
epidemic, up to 675,000 of them died. The average life span in the 
States dropped from 56 to 39 years as a result.

  The history of humanity is inseparable from the history of epidemics. 
It is generally believed that the smallpox epidemic, which broke out in 
elite units of the Persian army, allowed Greece to keep its independence 
and create glorious culture. An identified disease killed a quarter of 
Athens population in the year 430 B.C. The tragedy made Athens lose its 
dominating positions in Ancient Greece for a certain period of time. An 
outburst of Antonine Plague, most likely smallpox, occurred in 165-180: 
about five million people were killed with the disease. More than 5,000 
people were dying in Rome daily during a second outburst of the disease 
in 255-266. As a result, the Roman Empire had to suspend its aggressive 
crusades.

  It is an open secret that plague exerted an intense influence on the 
history of mankind. The first epidemic known as Plague of Justinian took 
place in Byzantium in the VI century. Plague killed about 100 million 
people in 50 years. Having started in Egypt, the epidemic reached 
Constantinople, where it started killing 10,000 on a daily basis. 
Several European regions, Italy for example, became depopulated.

  Bubonic plague, or black death hit the world in the XIV century v it 
destroyed about one-third of the Asian and a half of the European 
population. The epidemic caused several well-known rebellions in Great 
Britain, France, Italy and so on. When the epidemic was over, the 
development of the civilization took a different turn. Employees started 
receiving higher wages because of the considerable reduction of the 
labor force, the role of cities increased a lot and the development of 
bourgeoisie commenced. Furthermore, considerable progress was achieved 
in the field of medicine and hygiene.

  The third epidemic of plague broke out at the end of the XIX century. 
Rats were spreading the disease very fast as they were traveling from 
one sea port to another. The third epidemic of plague was over with a 
scientific breakthrough. Scientists discovered the pathogenic organism 
of the disease in 1894.

  Epidemics affected people's religious preferences too. When plague was 
raging on Cyprus in 250-271, a lot of local population converted to 
Christianity. The smallpox epidemic in Japan (VIII-IX centuries) 
eventually resulted in the triumph of Buddhism. Xenophobia and 
brutality, however, were much more common during epidemic years. 
Infidels or people of other nationalities (Jews and Gypsies in Europe) 
were usually declared ?evil-doers¦ at this point. It was originally 
believed that AIDS, for example, was a solely homosexual disease, which 
was not dangerous to heterosexual individuals. The first title that was 
given to the greatest tragedy of the XX century was: Gay Related Immune 
Deficiency.

  The first epidemic, which can be considered as a side effect of great 
geographical discoveries, was registered at the end of the XV century. 
The syphilis pathogen found itself in Europe after the discovery of 
America. Syphilis became the most horrible sexually transmitted disease. 
Syphilis raised the authority of religion in the society: the disease 
was considered a punishment for sinners.

  A large-scale epidemic of cholera took place in the XVIII century. The 
XIX century was marked with a horrible yellow fever epidemic. The 
epidemic of poliomyelitis struck the world in 1916. The start of the 
Ebola Fever epidemic was registered in the 1970s v the horrible disease 
was killing 90 percent of the infected people. The recent SARS epidemic 
in 2003 resulted in an economic setback in Asian countries and caused a 
considerable damage to the tourist industry.

  Experts of the World Health Organization believe that outbursts of 
such diseases as Ebola and Lassa fevers, as well as the Magdeburg virus, 
may pose a big threat to humanity in the future. Now-defunct illnesses, 
such as smallpox, may return to the world of humans again too.

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