Friday, August 14, 2015

1000: The King's Evil

A disease continued to wreak havoc even into the dark ages, or the Medieval or Middle ages.  It was known to all, although by various names.  Some called it phthisis, some called it consumption, some called it King's Evil, and others referred to it as the White Plague.

Around 1066 to 1485, Europeans called it the King's Evil "because newly crowned kings (and queens, in England) were alleged to cure scrofula, glandular swellings in the neck associated with TB, with their touch." (2)

While the disease, regardless of the location, was generally referred to as phthisis, Fracastonius of Verona (1478-1553) was the first to use phthisis exclusively for tuberculosis of the lungs.

Franciseus Sylvius (1614-1672) observed tubercles in the lungs of people with pthsisis and is credited with coining the term tubercle.  The tubercle described by the Hippocratic writers now had a name.

After 1492, Europeans started sailing for America.  In America the disease spread too, killing many.  Some believed it was a European disease and the Europeans brought it to America.  Yet evidence of Native American remains show that the disease had made its way to America long before the Europeans. (12, page 13)

So this disease, perhaps the deadliest one to ever exist, had already spread to the entire world, even to the places that were far removed from the civilized worlds of Europe.  No matter where men and women roamed, no matter where they lived, no matter whether it be land or water, or even some remote island, the disease found a host, and it found a way of spreading from one person to another.  It did so surreptitiously, and often without being noticed until it was too late. 

So we have a disease that was not prejudiced who it invaded, a the disease was seen all over the world. Most people on the planet had either been inflicted with it, or had seen someone suffer from one or another forms of the disease.  Little was known about it, and there was no cure.  So, for the most part, people saw it as the will of God.  If you didn't catch it, you were lucky.  If you got it, you dealt with it. If someone you knew got it, you pitied and doted on him.  

By the 17th century the disease was so rampant that that at least one in five death certificates in the city listed consumption as the cause of death.  Yet those statistics would seem small considering what the disease would do to mankind during the following two centuries. (12, page 13)

  1. Norris, Charles Camblos, "Gynecological and Obstetrical Tuberculosis," 1921, New York, London
  2. Koehler, Christopher W., "Consumption, the great killer,"
  3. "History of TB," New Jersey Medical School, Global Tuberculosis Institute,
  4. Klebs, Arnold Carl, "Tuberculosis," 1909, New York
  5. Morton, Samuel, "Pulmonary Consumption," 1834, Philadelphia
  6. Flenner, Simon, , "Immunity in Tuberculosis," Annual report of the Smithonian Institution, 1907, New York, page 627 
  7. "Captain of the Men of Death," Ulster Med J. 1989; 58(Suppl): 7–9.
  8. Sigeris, Henry E, "A History of Medicine," volume I, "Primitive and Archaic Medicine," Second Edition, 1955, New York, Oxford University Press, page 53
  9. Seth, Vimlesh, SK Kabra, Rachna Seth, "Essentials of Tuberculosis,"  Third ed., Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishing, 2006, page 3-4
  10. Jones, Greta, "Ca;ptain of All These Men of Death," 2001, New York
  11. Prioreschi, Plinio, "A History of Medicine," 1991, volume I, "Primitive and Ancient Medicine," Edwin Mellen Press, Chapter VII, "biblical Medicine," page 514
  12. Landau, Elaine, "Tuberculosis," 1995, New York, Chicago, London, Sydney, Franklin Watts, pages 13-32
  13. Madkour, M. Monir, editor,"Tuberculosis," 

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