Diseases That Altered History

Free «Diseases That Altered History» Essay Sample


Cholera is also a disease that has killed many people since it emerged out of the dirty water and filthy living conditions of Calcutta India early in 1800. From then there have occurred eight cholera pandemics.  A cholera pandemic is an epidemic that can last for many years spreading to many countries, across, continents and oceans. The first cholera outbreak spread from India to South East Asia, Middle East and Russia killing many people in its wake. The recent numbers of cholera deaths are still high although they can not be compared to those in the pandemics of 1800. The decrease in deaths has been due to medical advances made so far.


Syphilis is caused by the corkscrew shaped bacteria called Treponema Pallidum. It is a disease that has been written about, debated over, and has affected many cultures it has come in contact with. The first syphilis epidemic occurred at the end of the 15th century in Europe. At the time blames were placed on travelers, prostitutes and even soldiers. For many years, syphilis and gonorrhea were taken to be the same. It is in the 19th century that a French scientist Phillipe Ricord discovered that the two were different. It is basically a sexually transmitted disease. It is believed to have been named syphilis by an Italian poet named Girolamo Fracastoro. In the 16th century the disease was also called a great pox to distinguish it from smallpox.

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Its history goes back many years, a period in which it has been a major killer. It has been known under many names in the course of its history. It is a difficult disease to diagnose and many have confused it with other diseases. The name tuberculosis was introduced in the first half of the 19th century and it basically refers to a diseased condition caused by infectious agents that are known as tuberculosis bacteria or tubercle bacilli. The other names it was called are phthisis, Scrofula, Tabes, Bronchitis and many others. Many attempts were made to cure it to no avail making people to believe that it was a punishment from God. The first breakthrough came in 1882 by a German bacteriologist and since many discoveries were made leading to development of its vaccine.

Hemophilia and porphyria

These are genetic blood disorders that have serious effects on people. For instance it serious affected the crowned heads of Europe. It is believed that the rise of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco can be traced to a lack of a heir to the throne because of hemophilia. . The collapse of the Romanov dynasty in Russia is also attributed to hemophilia in the family. Many British monarchs could not manage their kingdoms because of these disorders. Porphyria can cause mental illnesses that affect people’s lives.

Potato blight

This occurred in the 1800s were it destroyed the staple food for the Irish people. This shows that diseases do not just affect humans but also what humans eat. This disease brought about a major famine that saw many Irish people migrate to America. It was discovered that the blight was caused by a fungus called Phytophthora infestans whose cure was discovered in 1882 some 40 years after the famine.


This is a disease that is the headache to many scientists today.  Its timeline began in 1981 whereby an outbreak of a rare form of cancer was reported in the New York Times among gay men in New York and California it was later identified as Kaposi’s sarcoma and later HIV/AIDS. This was just the beginning of what is now the biggest concern of health care in modern times. It has been 30 years now but the disease continues to plague many societies.  It may be said that the disease has just been around for 30 years but it is believed that this syndrome has been in the world longer than its thought. Examination of blood samples from a man who died in Africa in 1959 from a mysterious death show that he actually died from complications similar to those of HIV. Many attempts to find its cure have been made. Just last year scientists from the University of Northern Carolina announced that they had decoded the structure of the HIV genome. How this will help in the fight of this deadly disease still remains to be seen.

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The history of diseases has been a along one, and the way people have been affected is more or less the same. People still experience fear and ignorance, prejudice, anxiety, isolation and panic just as it happened thousands of years ago. What is important though is that the more people know about these diseases, the better they can fight their effects, this is the advantage that the present day people have over those in the medieval times.


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