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Diseases - King Rat
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gkr
gkr
Diseases
So history as I understood it was that Europeans and their descendants brought diseases to America with disastrous consequences for the aboriginal populations.

But what I always wondered was why the Europeans didn't catch American diseases for which they had no immunity, and spread them across Europe. It just didn't make sense to me that nothing of the sort was recorded.

According to Scientific American, it turns out that syphilis was originally an American disease.
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foote3 From: foote3 Date: January 16th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm reading a really interesting book right now that looks at why certain populations so overwhelmed and decimated others -- especially western European's pretty much anywhere they went. It's a good read, check it out.


Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
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aggrobat From: aggrobat Date: January 16th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I've never heard that about syphilis, but supposedly the reason that Europeans were so germy was because of the variety of domesticated animals they lived amongst.
The natives here had never encountered those creatures, let alone their diseases, which the Europeans had built up immunity to - except for a plague here and there. So, apparently, the lack of domesticated animals here in the Americas made the natives less disease-ridden, but extremely vulnerable to what the invaders carried.
aggrobat From: aggrobat Date: January 16th, 2008 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)
BTW, Guns, Germs and Steel is exactly where I got my information.
gkr From: gkr Date: January 16th, 2008 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I totally understand why Americans got the brunt of the problems. I just didn't buy that there were no diseases which were transmitted back to Europe.
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chiaspod From: chiaspod Date: January 16th, 2008 12:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep, you're actually pretty spot-on. The population density wasn't critical enough to allow rapid, widespread transmission, so most diseases which were airborne or simple-contact would burn a hotspot and end. Something like syphillis - or any STD, actually - tends to have a long incubation period before doing its damage, and most of those do their damage cumulatively rather than in an orgiastic system shutdown. So syphillis, which could take weeks or months to go from "hey, that tingles" to "MY BRAIN IS MELTING" could be transmitted easily without burning down the ship, metaphorically speaking.
mariquita From: mariquita Date: January 16th, 2008 04:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Whatever. Their filthy asses still brought over smallpox... :p
gargoylettelc From: gargoylettelc Date: January 16th, 2008 07:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Silly question, but don't know 'dates' on what you are reading...Were more people coming over here from Europe vs us going to Europe? Diseases and viruses also mutate, and that's why we can't cure the common cold.
gkr From: gkr Date: January 16th, 2008 07:14 am (UTC) (Link)
There were definitely more people coming here vs going to Europe. Still, at some point a disease for which America had essentially built up an immunity had to have eventually been transmitted to Europeans, even if it wasn't on the scale of European diseases brought and spread into America.
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