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Prev Vet Med. 2008 Sep 15;86(3-4):198-207. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2008.05.001. Epub 2008 Jul 17.

Disease and destiny-mystery and mastery.

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  • 1Iowa State University, ISU College of Veterinary Medicine, Packer Heritage Museum, Ames, IA 50011, USA. gberan@iastate.edu

Abstract

When early people made their appearance, zoonotic infectious diseases were already waiting, but epidemic diseases did not appear in human history until people began to live in large numbers under conditions of close contact, mainly during the last 10,000 years. Disease has decimated urban populations, conquered armies, and disrupted society. The focus here is on (1) the plague of Athens and the Black Death; (2) smallpox, influenza, and rabies; (3) avian influenza prion diseases, and foot & mouth disease; and (4) emerging and re-emerging diseases. All have veterinary public health associations. In Athens, Greece, in 430 BC, when the Spartans ravaged the countryside, hordes crowded into Athens so that orderly movements, space in which to live, and adequate supplies of food became impossible. Crowding of any population fosters disease transmission; chaos and disorder enhance it all the more. Out of northern Egypt came a terrible plague from across the Mediterranean Sea. The identity of the plague of Athens remains unsure, but the well-considered conclusion is Rift Valley Fever, a mosquito borne, viral zoonosis. The Black Death, also called the Plague, raged in Asia for centuries. In 1347, the Black Death was brought by a ship out of Asia to Sicily. The scenes of devastation were repeated throughout Europe, with 90% or more of the people dying in city after city. Influenza, too, has been a cause of periodic human epidemics, but the great pandemic of influenza occurred in the last months of World War I. In the years of highest occurrence, more than half the world's population became clinically infected. If veterinary public health had been born earlier, it could have led to elucidating the epidemiology of influenza and the plagues of Athens, Europe, and Asia. In turn, smallpox had also caused continual tragedy. In 1796, Edward Jenner began to harvest pustules of cowpox from children or infected cows and inject them into susceptible children. In 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been eliminated from the world. Rabies, though, still strikes terror. A number of animal diseases, broadly termed emerging and re-emerging diseases, need surveillance because they have the potential to impact human health. From late in 2003 to 2007, the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus in poultry infected at least 121 people and caused 62 deaths in four countries. The prion diseases, too, all have very high numbers in concentrated contacts. To control these diseases, veterinary public health is essential, with diagnosis, epidemiological surveillance, clinical manifestations, and prevention as primary measures.

PMID:
18639356
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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