Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lurking horrors: sweating sickness

We have not had it for some time.

Don't know why.  Nobody really knows why, because no one is completely sure what it was/is.  Some say it may have been an enterovirus,  which would make it a hyper-active cousine to Polio,  others a hantavirus, which would make it a hyper-active deadlier version of the "Korean hemorrhagic fever" that knocked out thousands of our troops during the Korean War.  Both of these disease are connected with our RNA (messenger DNA).  Hantavirus are generally associated with rat droppings, but as we will not below: not always.

For our quick blurb:

The Pessimist's Guide to History (updated)
Doris Flexner and Stuart Berg Flexner, Harper Collins, NY NY, 2008

1485: Outbreak of English Sweating Sickness
Sweating sickness first appeared in England in 1485 and spread rapidly among the populace.  Apparently healthy individuals were struck down and died of the disease overnight.  Largely confined to England, seating sickness killed thousand in epidemics that occurred in 1485, 1506, 1517, 1528, and 1551.  It seemed more severe among the rich than the poor.

After what turned out to be what was the last epidemic, a report was written by physician, John Caius.  It is of interest mostly because it shows how heavily languages change over time and is close to unreadable.  The best portion is where the learned writer has to make excuses for why he is writing it in the vernacular English, rather than Latin or Greek.

John Caius, 1552, from a Cambridge 1912 edition of Caius' Works.

I wolde geue none example or comforte to my countrie men, (whom I wolde to be now, as here tofore they haue bene, comparable in learnyng to men of other countries) to stonde onely in the Englishe tongue, but to leaue the simplicite of thesame, and to procede further in many and diuerse knoweleges bothe in tongues and sciences at home and in vniuersities, to the adournyng of the common welthe, better seruice of their kyng, & great pleasure and commodite of their owne selues, to what kinde of life so euer they shold applie them. Therfore whatsoeuer sence that tyme I minded to write, I wrate y^e same either in greke or latine.
I think this is is vernacular still common to parts of Canada, particularly after they have had a few at the local pub, so maybe some of our Northern friends can help us with it.

Note that hetravirus was argued to be an unlikely candidate, because it was not known to be transmitted directly from people.  However, that has proven to be untrue:

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome outbreak in Argentina: molecular evidence for person-to-person transmission of Andes virus, Padula et al, Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Infecciosas, 15 February 1998

Although human infection principally occurs via inhalation of contaminated rodent excreta, our results with Andes virus show the first direct genetic evidence of person-to-person transmission of a hantavirus.

So just another fun little think to look forward to in a spic-n-span post-apocalyptic spic-n-span world .  A rat turd disease with wings.  If it were fiction, it would turn us to zombies.


PioneerPreppy said...

Another good reason Kymber needs to read for getting rid of vermin!!!

russell1200 said...

PP: I think She bathes them regularly.

It is around this time that European caravans would not allow Englishmen to join their caravans. I had assumed it was because they were violent and dangerous. But maybe it was just because they were dirty and smelly - which by the standards of the day would take some work.

jambaloney said...

sup yo!

kymber said...

bahahahahahahah! this was super funny before i read PP's comment! oh Russell - where do you come up with this stuff?!?!?!!?

needless to say, i Do bathe all of our vermin regularly. i use no chemicals - only environmentally friendly and trusted cleaning products - lemon and/or vinegar, baking soda and water!!! Framboise Manor has the cleanest vermin in all the world!

thanks for a good laugh buddy. as you can see - i made jambaloney come over and read this, too. you will appreciate that he had to pause his Panzer General 2 (1997) game in order to do so! so you can see that yes, some of us Canadians do still speak the olde english - bahahahahah!

your friend,

russell1200 said...

J: Thanks! I can see that the usuage is a bit more abreviated.

I used to play the pre-computer hex board type of games similar to Panzer 2. Third Reich, I recall being a particularly fun one, if a little lengthy. I was already interested in history, but playing these games starting in 7th grade intensified the interest.

K: They do make bath/dusting powder for mice (small animals) apparently. But no doubt your eco-friendly wash is far superiour to the commercial brands.

I have the book that I quoted from. Mostly it is just localized disasters, so they are not very relevant here.

Having a deadpan sense of humor helps bring it all into focus.

izzit said...

In case you haven't seen this theory of English die-offs already (and this site has more detail):

"The earlier pits would fit reports of a famine in 1252. The difference in severity appears to have been marked – while the first mass graves typically contain between 8 and 20 bodies, the second group were larger and held 20-40, implying that up to twice as many corpses needed disposing of at any given moment."

russell1200 said...


No I had not seen that one.

The Little Ice Age is thought to have been brought on by a combination of low solar activity and vulcanism, but 1252 is a little early.

I am going to put you link on my list of things to look at.