Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Whole Lotta Sickness Goin' On

This Time Traveler is spending a lot of time in the 19th Century these days. Yes, writing another book. With the Swine Flu and the seasonal one breathing down our necks this winter of 2009/2010 and vaccine shortages [I couldn't get mine yesterday--all out] a source of irritation, stop and consider that Americans have been sicker in the past. While we now tend to think that cholera is something that happens in Asia, outbreaks of this disease, caused by Salmonella Typhi, occurred repeatedly in the America of the 1800s. You got cholera, you didn't have much chance as it deprived your body of all fluids within the first 36 hours. And it spread fast! In addition to the nasty cholera, there was typhoid fever [then called "bilious fever"], not as deadly as cholera but also exhibiting some of the same foul symptoms. Then there was Yellow Fever in the swampy southern states, an acute viral infection caused by the bite of mosquitoes called Aedes Aegypti. If you ever saw the classic film, "Jezebel", with Bette Davis and Henry Fonda, you got an education in Yellow Fever. The post WW I enfluenza contagion was a horror, often killing whole families. Then there was all that polio following WW II...well, you get the picture and I'll stop. Life on this planet is just plain hostile to the human species and medicine wages a seemingly endless war on microbes.