Re: Pre-contact diseases anyone???

Wed, 26 Jul 95 19:41:05 EDT

In article <>
Jeffrey L Baker <> writes:

>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.
Not to really dispute this Jeff, but on what basis do we know this.
The figures I see for modern infection into "virgin soil" populations
has epidemic infection rates as "high" at 50%. This is in South
Amerindian populations with infectious diseases such as measles
which have been cited as also affecting North Amerindians post-
contact. If you have some references, I'd like to see them
purely out of curiosity.

>I do think 85-95% is on the high side, but would not opt an average
>figure too much lower (75-90%).
So do I, but more based on modern observation of "virgin soil"
populations (VS#1 for those monitoring VS type).

>Jeff Baker
Tim Shickley (
Temple University School of Medicine
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