Century diseases

As a result of the Agricultural revolution, many poor peasant farmers were forced out of their country homes and they moved to major cities, such as London, expecting a new prosperous life there. As the population in major cities grew, overpopulation became an issue. No only was crowded homes and streets a problem, but the conditions everyday people lived in were not at all healthy. People disposed of their sewerage and garbage out their windows and onto the streets to be washed away by storms.

Stray animals roamed the streets, scavenging for food and leaving their messes behind. People were literally dying in the streets of disease and influenzas. England was not at all like people conceive it to be. Diseases like Cholera, Scrofula and Diphtheria plagued Europe because of such problems. The common source of these diseases was the main river flowing through London called the ”Thames River”.

Not only was this River the main source of water supply, but was also contaminated by raw waste, rotting carcases and garbage, it was said by the poet William Blake, that the Thames was ”considerably less than a river than a flood of liquid manure ”Cholera, Scrofula, Diphtheria and many more diseases sprang from the Thames, killing hundreds and lowering the average life expectancy to as low as 17 in London alone. Cholera, a particularly nasty disease, was one of the many that sprang from the river Thames. Cholera begins with a feeling of faintness, sweating and stomach flutters.

Soon after it is followed by a severe attack of diarrhoea. For many hours these attacks continue and soon become a clear, milky white fluid known as the ‘rice stool’ – this confirms that the patient has cholera. Soon, the person becomes terribly thirsty, yet consuming fluids is difficult though the vomiting and retching. As the body loses more and more fluids it begins to spasm and severe pain in the limbs begin to attack the patient. As the body throws out its fluids, the person loses weight so fast that the skin hangs in folds from the flesh and begins to shrivel.

The Blood of the patient becomes thick and dark because of the severe loss of fluids and the complexion of the patient becomes a dark, blackish-blue as a result of the blood capillaries bursting. The stomach hollows and caves in. Coma and Death soon follow. This entire process lasts approximately 24 hours. Diphtheria, another particularly nasty disease, and was common in children. A thick, grey membrane in the child’s throat, making it difficult to breath. The diphtheria bacterium releases a chemical toxin into the blood and causes fever, headache, vomiting and this grey membrane to appear.

The patient will also be severely weak and the disease would weaken the heart and the child would die. Diphtheria was mainly transmitted by direct contact with infected people, indirect contact with contaminated articles and by breathing in airborne droplets by an infected person. the disease was seen to be introduced by micro-organisms from the waste and rotting carcases from water supplies Scrofula, also known as ‘the kings evil’ was another disease that appeared to be coming from the Thames. It was known as the kings’ evil because it was thought that if the king touched you, you would be healed.

Scrofula was a form of Tuberculosis that consisted of enlarged rubbery lymph nodes in the neck and joints, which are not painful, yet swell and can become uncomfortable. It can become a very chronic infection and could often last for years. Such horrid diseases took many lives in the early 19th Century and many studies were involved in finding cures, for instances, it was found by Robert Koch that if a patient had been exposed to a minute strain of the Diphtheria bacterium, the patient would be cured of the disease.

Discoveries like these, soon led to find Cures for many other Diseases and found the cause of these diseases, resulting in many lifestyle changes in London, after Mr John Snow concluded that a minute organism in the water supply was the cause of Cholera. Discoveries like these led to changes that not only reduced the number of death from around 700 people from cholera alone to as low as 123 a week and was still declining, but it also led to a cleaner, healthier London, and Europe.

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One infectious disease I will be discussing is called Diphtheria. Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection, which mainly affects the nose, throat and occasionally the skin, but in more serious cases, it can attack the heart and nerves. Diphtheria …

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