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Emerg Infect Dis. 2003 Dec;9(12):1599-603.

Alexander the Great and West Nile virus encephalitis.

Author information

1
Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, VA, USA.

Abstract

Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 BC. His death at age 32 followed a 2-week febrile illness. Speculated causes of death have included poisoning; assassination, and a number of infectious diseases. One incident, mentioned by Plutarch but not considered by previous investigators, may shed light on the cause of Alexander's death. The incident, which occurred as he entered Babylon, involved a flock of ravens exhibiting unusual behavior and subsequently dying at his feet. The inexplicable behavior of ravens is reminiscent of avian illness and death weeks before the first human cases of West Nile virus infection were identified in the United States. We posit that Alexander may have died of West Nile virus encephalitis.

PMID:
14725285
PMCID:
PMC3034319
DOI:
10.3201/eid0912.030288
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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