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Haley Harder

on 16 September 2015

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Transcript of Typhus

1. Where did the epidemic begin and spread to (if at all)?
The epidemic that was Typhus seemed to have begun in the Middle Ages and held on throughout the following two World Wars. Outbreaks of Typhus occurred within areas that held poor hygiene standards, and the disease ran rampant throughout both concentration camps as well as many other countries (Russia, Poland, Romania, modern South America, modern Africa, and modern Asia).
2. What were the symptoms of the disease?
Symptoms of the Typhus disease included abdominal pain, backaches, a rampant bodily rash, a high fever (40-41 Degrees Celsius) that lasted for up to two weeks, hacking and dry coughing, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and nausea. Within ten days after contracting the disease, victims would suffer from severe headaches, a drastic loss in appetite, and a hasty rise in bodily temperature. The body was soon after blanketed in a dull rash, and the eyes became sore and blurry. Two weeks after contracting Typhus, victims would notice a drop in bodily temperature as their body began to shut down. Cardiac arrest and/or a sickness-induced coma soon followed afterwards, and a victim would pass away following that.
4. What is the scientific explanation for the disease?
Typhus is scientifically considered to be a series/group of acute infectious diseases. This group contained a plethora of closely-related illnesses that are caused by the bacteria Rickettsia. These diseases, particularly Typhus Endemic, were spread by rodents, insects, and various types of body louse. The body louse in question would transmit Typhus between humans via infected bite wounds, for they contained both Rickettsia and Prowazekii within their intestines.
5. How many died or have died thus far as result?
The exact death count for Typhus victims is unknown. However, a great deal of people (including the legendary Anne Frank) passed away due to the disease during the two major World Wars. A total of 25 million cases of Typhus were recorded in Russia, and 3 million deaths within the frigid country occurred because of this. Millions more were killed during the Middle Ages and the 20th Century, and the total number of Typhus victims between the years 1917-1925 racked up to a greater number than that of the great deal of heroic soldiers killed thanks to both World War I and World War II combined.
3. What did people think caused the disease?
People believed that Typhus was running rampant due to the overcrowding of people within filthy and generally poor living conditions (prisons, war-zones, etc.). This popular belief gave way to many nick-names for the disease, many of which included: “Camp Fever”, “Jail Fever’, and “War Fever”.
History 10: Research Project - Haley Harder
6. How did the epidemic affect government and business?
The Typhus Epidemic that occurred in the past led to many-a-person desperately seeking a viable cure, and one such remedy was invented during World War II. It was a pesticide that could kill off lice eggs as they hatched onto the skin (a type of body louse that caused Typhus), and this agent was dubbed “DDT”. The invention of DDT led to many others producing and distributing anti-body louse agents. However, some governments cracked down on pesticides considered to be damaging to the environment (DDT was banned due to one such case by the U.S. government).
7. Was society able to go back to normal after the epidemic?
Society was able to return to sub-par normality after the development of both anti-Typhus vaccines and viable agents that were capable of killing off dangerous and harmful body louse. However, many impoverished countries such as South America, Africa, and Asia are still plagued by Typhus today.
8. What changes occurred after the epidemic?

The Typhus epidemic inspired humanity to start prepping itself for a viable cure. Medical treatments were developed during World War II, and the disease was then easily treatable by Chloramphenicol and Tetracycline. Two vaccination treatments were given to patients roughly one month apart, and a third was given roughly three months later. The vaccination granted protection against many types of Typhus, and newly-produced pesticides also allowed people to kill off any body louse that may have been residing on both their clothing and their skin.

Typhus and the Black Death

Typhus Black Death

Deaths 30+ Million 25+ million
Cures Pesticide, Vaccines (Successful) Home Remedies (Failed)
Time Period Thousands of years 1346-1353 and then on
Area Impoverished countries/areas, war zones Europe – England, France, Italy
Recovery Recovery made possible with science Recovery made possible with resilience

Both Typhus and the Black Death were horrendous diseases with huge consequences in mind for humanity, and while they may have been devastating to both our morale and our population, we have stood strong. The world blamed an angry deity for the Black Death, and the others, the great World Wars for Typhus. Both of these diseases left little to spare, for they had no qualms with whom they killed. Anne Frank died due to Typhus, and many great leaders, to the Black Death. Science fought Typhus whilst priests and apothecaries fought the Black Death, and people broke through pesticides and vaccines whilst the others prayed to the heavens above and never lost sight of hope. All of us have made it through today, despite the shortcomings, and we can thank our resilience for that.
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