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Plagues & Poxes

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Plagues & Poxes

SKU# 9781888799798

The Impact of Human History on Epidemic Disease

Author: Alfred Bollet MD, Alfred Jay MD


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"Since publication of the initial version of Plagues & Poxes in 1987, which had the optimistic subtitle "The Rise and Fall of Epidemic Disease," the rise of new diseases such as AIDS and the deliberate modification and weaponization of diseases such as anthrax have changed the way we perceive infectious disease.

With major modifications to deal with this new reality, the acclaimed author of Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs has updated and revised this series of essays about changing disease patterns in history and some of the key events and people involved in them. It deals with the history of major outbreaks of disease - both infectious diseases such as plague and smallpox and noninfectious diseases - and shows how they are in many cases caused inadvertently by human actions, including warfare, commercial travel, social adaptations, and dietary modifications. To these must now be added discussion of the intentional spreading of disease by acts of bioterrorism, and the history and knowledge of those diseases that are thought to be potential candidates for intentional spread by bioterrorists.

Among the many topics discussed are:

  • How the spread of smallpox and measles among previously unexposed populations in the Americas, the introduction of malaria and yellow fever from Africa via the importation of slaves into the Western hemisphere, and the importation of syphilis to Europe all are related to the modern interchange of diseases such as AIDS.

  • How the ever-larger populations in the cities of Europe and North America gave rise to "crowd diseases" such as polio by permitting the existence of sufficient numbers of non-immune people in sufficient numbers to keep the diseases from dying out.

    How the domestication of animals allowed diseases of animals to affect humans, or perhaps become genetically modified to become epidemic human diseases.

  • Why the concept of deficiency diseases was not understood before the early twentieth century disease, after all, was the presence of something abnormal, how could it be due to the absence of something? In fact, the first epidemic disease in human history probably was iron deficiency anemia.

  • How changes in the availability and nature of specific foods have affected the size of population groups and their health throughout history. The introduction of potatoes to Ireland and corn to Europe, and the relationship between the modern technique of rice milling and beriberi, all illustrate the fragile nutritional state that results when any single vegetable crop is the main source of food.

  • Why biological warfare is not a new phenomenon. There have been attempts to intentionally cause epidemic disease almost since the dawn of recorded history, including the contamination of wells and other water sources of armies and civilian populations of course, the spread of smallpox to Native Americans during the French and Indian War is known to every schoolchild. With our increased technology, it is not surprising that we now have to deal with problems such as weaponized spores of anthrax.

Product Details 

  • Publication Date June 01, 2004
  • Page Count 250
  • Product Form Paperback / softback
  • ISBN 13 9781888799798
  • EISBN 9781934559383

Table of Contents 

"Introduction: Unintentional Causes of Epidemic Diseases: The Effect of Human History on Disease. Infectious Diseases.Bubonic Plague; The Little Flies that Brought Death: Part 1: Malaria; The Little Flies that Brought Death: Part 2: Yellow Fever; The Great Pox: Syphilis; The Smallpox; Safe Water And Unsafe Water: Epidemic Cholera; President Wilson and the Blitzkatarrh: The story of the great Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919; The Rise and Fall of Epidemic Poliomyelitis: Why Did Franklin Delano Roosevelt Get Infantile Paralysis As An Adult?. Non-Infectious Diseases. Beriberi: An Epidemic That Affected Rice-Eaters; The Three M's Produce The Four D's: The Epidemics of Pellagra; The Purpura Nautica: Epidemic Scurvy; Dying for a Cigar? How about a Cigarette? Part I: Smoking and Epidemic Cancer: A Story of Two Presidents and a Prince ; Dying for a cigar? How about a cigarette? Part II: The Death of President Harding: Poisoning or the Start of an Epidemic?; Rickets; Gout. Intentionally Induced Diseases: Bioterrorism. The most feared induced diseases: anthrax and botulism; Conclusion: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Epidemic Disease, Intentional and Unintentional."

Editorial Review(s) 

"Plagues & Poxes is entertaining and concisely offers much information that is not easily available. -- New England Journal of Medicine

"The book will be useful to those wishing to gain the perspective of a distinguished scholar on the fascinating relationships of human behavior, disease, and history... The essays are well written, referenced, and filled with fascinating details of the people and events involved." -- Journal of the American Medical Association

"...for those who want to know the long-range history and what general progress has been made in the containment or treatment of many of the world's worst diseases, or for those interested in the relationship between human progress and the increase of certain types of disease, it would be a good choice." --

"Serves up a rich feast of disease, danger, and death... What sets this book apart is breadth wed to concision." -- Foreword Magazine

"Dr. Bollet's collections of elegantly and excitingly with a wide range of topics... excellent accounts of the illnesses of various presidents of the U.S..." -- Medical History

"Bollet's book bring[s] a new perspective on disease to the general reader."-- Midwest Book Review

"Do not start this book at night unless you suffer from insomnia; the stories are spellbinding to anyone who loves history."-- Doody's Reviews

"An excellent medical-based survey which charts the rise and change of disease patterns throughout human history."-- The Bookwatch

"...well written and interesting...a perfect companion on a transcontinental flight."--American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

"A fascinating account of how diseases change as a result of both known and unknown factors." -- Brit. J. Clinical Practice