Re: Pre-contact diseases anyone???

Sun, 23 Jul 1995 00:40:23 GMT (CDBusiness) wrote:

>An interesting non-technical discussion of whether syphilis originated in
>the New World as a unique disease or was merely a sexually-transmitted
>variant of treponematosis, a multi-faceted, world-wide disease that
>includes among its manifestations such maladies as yaws, is contained in
>"The Columbian Exchange" by Alfred Crosby. Crosby was a research
>associate at UCSF Medical Center. The book is heavily footnoted and
>contains an extensive bibliography. Plus, it's a great read.

Yes, I've read that book and we've been discussing it recently. His
conclusion (as of 1972) was that it didn't matter if syphilis was
related to other diseases such as yaws. In its form as syphilis, it
was unique to the New World. There were no examples of it in the Old
World prior to 1493. there are no in written records of the disease
prior to 1493. As of 1972, it had not been found in the remains of
people who had died prior to 1493.

The written record shows a disease that appeared suddenly in Spain and
Portugal in 1493. The people of the time believed they knew where,
and with what ships, the disease had entered the country. The medical
writers of the period wrote clear descriptions of the new disease and
there is no doubt as to what it was. It spread very rapidly across
Europe and Asia and then to the rest of the world.

During the first century the disease killed everyone it touched, all
over the world, except in the Americas among native peoples, and they
died very rapidly. After a while the world population developed an
immunity to the disease, since it rapidly killed off those who were
more prone to get it before they had offspring, and it turned into the
syphillis that we know, which is a chronic disease that takes years to
kill. Although mortality rates were very high, they were not in the
85-95% range considered normal for a contact disease wave by some
writers on this newsgroup.

One of the reasons I discount the 85-95% mortality rate for contact
disease in the Americas AS AN AVERAGE MORTALITY RATE (not in specific
examples) is this book. Crosby considered a 50% mortality rate in one
location to be very high and he seemed to know what he was talking

Thank you for explaining to me WHY he knew what he was talking about.

Stella Nemeth