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Br J Biomed Sci. 2001;58(1):1-6.

The English 'sweate' (Sudor Anglicus) and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.


A rapidly fatal viral infectious disease appeared in England in 1485, persisted for the summer months and disappeared as winter approached. This pattern of infection re-appeared in 1508, 1517, 1528, and finally 1551. The epidemic never returned. It had no respect for wealth or rank, and predominantly attacked males between the ages of 15 and 45 years. The incubation period was frighteningly short and the outcome normally fatal. The symptoms of acute respiratory disease and copious sweating were characteristic, providing the name 'the English sweating disease'. It was never in the big league of killer epidemics, such as plague and influenza, but its pockets of instant lethality in communities gave it a special ranking of horror. The infective cause of this disease remained a total mystery until it was compared with Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in 1994. The strength of this theory is examined in this paper, and it is concluded that, although there is a close resemblance, HPS does not match the English sweating disease completely and positive identification of a possible rodent carrier for the latter was not established.

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