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Cholera: The Greek Thucydides Story (February 24, 2009)

            In 430 BC Sparta was besieging Athens. People were flocking from the rural areas to Athens for protection. In this war, Greece and Athens experienced a cholera epidemic.

The Greek historian Thucydides related the horror.  He wrote:

“The plague had hit several counties and city of Lemnos was one of them.  Physicians were of no help because they had no idea what the epidemic was about: they were the first to be infected since they communicated with patients. People prayed, consulted oracles, and then gave up.

They say that the epidemic started in Ethiopia, swept through Egypt, Libya, and then hit the port of Pirea and Athens. People wanted to believe that Sparta poisoned the water wells, but casualties were heaviest in the higher areas of Athens.

People agreed that this year was very mild in ordinary sickness.  Individuals were stricken suddenly, whether they were very healthy or sickly.  The symptoms begin with acute heat in the head; the eyes are red inflamed,  the pharynx and the tongue are color of blood; respiration irregular; breath is fetid.  

The next phase starts with sneezing and the illness descends to the chest accompanied with violent coughing.  Then the patient experiences acute stomach ache, hiccups without vomit and then terrible convulsions.  The skin is not hot but reddish and covered with ulcers. 

The inside of the body is a volcano; nobody could suffer any clothing and it does not mater how often one drinks he is always thirsty.  Many died in wells trying to get refreshments.  Insomnia was the last stroke.

            During the first 7 days that the body is fighting off the disease, patients show signs of resilience and vigor. If patients go over the seven days then the disease reaches the intestine followed with diarrhea and atonement.  Those who outlived the disease were left with physical scars like lost fingers, lost eyes, and many loss of memory.

Most patients went into despair at the setting of the disease and contagion spread by mutual caring of parents and friends. The greatest numbers of victims are those who were confined in their residences and were thus abandoned. 

The most compassionate of “nurses” were those who managed to survive the disease on the belief that they could not relapse and that they would never succumb to any other disease.

            Those who suffered the worst were the rural inhabitants because they huddled in huts with no aeration.  The sacred places were the favorite locations to die.  All the customs for inhumations of cadavers were broken: people threw the dead in the fire reserved for other cadavers. Disorder was the name of the game.

Excesses in securing pleasure and voluptuousness were practiced by the most of sobers. Life and fortune were equally precarious. Nobody cared for divine wrath or later legal judgments since they were to die before then.  People wanted to experience what they failed to do so far.”

I had this funny idea: why the Athenians did not organize a regiment of its plagued citizens who were afflicted less than 7 days ago (since they are still active) and launch them to attack the Spartans while unfurling banners saying “We the plagued Athenians are attacking!”  It would be nice to observe the reactions of the brave Spartans.

Note:  I stated in a previous article on cholera that it appears from historical accounts that the afflicted Mogul armies did not experience the plagued until they reached humid regions and during summer

I wondered whether cholera blooms when people sweat profusely in unhealthy conditions. The consequence is that body fluid would be less saturated with salt or other alkaline compounds and thus, the cholera bacteria thrives abundantly and splits to a threatening cut off point. 

I suggest an experimental design for testing my hypothesis.  We prepare 8 conditions of body fluids; one very diluted in salt, one very concentrated, 3 conditions representing Mediterranean basin body fluids during the hot season, and 3 conditions from Mongolia and Central Asia during the hot seasons. 

If funding is appropriate, we could expand the experiment to include samples of body fluids during the hot seasons in regions close to where major rivers flow into seas and oceans such as the Amazon, the Congo, the Nile, the Mississippi, Ganges, Yang Tse, the Tiger and Euphrates, and the Indus Rivers. Good luck.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
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