Re: Pre-contact diseases anyone???

Jeffrey L Baker (
Mon, 24 Jul 1995 16:02:59 -0700

On Sun, 23 Jul 1995, Stella Nemeth wrote:

> 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
> about.

This is for a single disease, the 85-95% rate refers to the cumulative
effect of a whole range of diseases. Crosby wrote his book more than
25 years ago. At that time, a total of 50% mortality was not considered
too low. We know better now. We also know that the behavior of diseases
today is not necessarily an accurate guide of how they behave in the
past, particular to populations that had never faced them before.

I do think 85-95% is on the high side, but would not opt an average
figure too much lower (75-90%).

Jeff Baker