Noticeably missing from treatment are Ebola, AIDs, Typhus, and Typhoid. Exclusion of the last two diseases is because it is too hard to determine from historical documents whether Typhus (or Typhoid) is actually being described. However, the same could be said of all the diseases which Bollet traces to antiquity.
The best known of the ancient plagues may be the one to which Pericles succumbed during the Peloponnesian War. As Bollett writes:
- Some historians suspect that the Plague of Athens, decribed by Thucydides during the Peloponnesian War (in the fifth century BCE, with outbreaks occurring in 430, 429, and 427), was actually bubonic plague. Epidemiologists disagree.... p. 18
- The Antonine Plague (164-180)
- Plague of Cyprian or Aurelian Plague (251- 266)
Malaria is another disease with probable outbreaks in antiquity although those in Egypt might have been something else, Shistisomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic blood flukes. Ancient instances of cholera are also debatable. When Sennacherib and his Assyrian army suddenly dropped their siege of Jerusalem in 700 B.C., the reason could have been cholera or a pay off.
The chapter on smallpox contains information on the development of inoculations and vaccinations. Bollett says that pock sowing is recorded in a Sanskrit text of the second or third century A.D. He also mentions that there was a goddess of smallpox in China.
Polio, which we know of as an epidemic disease, was probably present in isolated cases in ancient Egypt.
Most of the diseases Bollett treats have grown more serious as civilization has advanced. Rickets was not a problem when people were outdoors in the sun before the era of industrial smoke hazes. Pellagra and beriberi were the results of food processing.
Plagues and Poxes is a reworking of a 1987 edition subtitled "The Rise and Fall of Epidemic Disease" because new diseases have appeared, including SARS, which is treated briefly, and we now face the menace of biological terrorism, although Bollett explains that biological terrorism has been a weapon since at least the seventh century B.C., when Scythian archers dipped arrows in blood, manure or decomposing bodies to try to stop the invading Assyrian army.
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