Table of contents:

How humanity conquered epidemics and always survived
How humanity conquered epidemics and always survived

With diseases such as plague, smallpox, cholera, poliomyelitis, they learned to cope only in the 19th century.

Smallpox epidemic: the horror of the Middle Ages

This is the only infectious disease completely eradicated. It is not known exactly how and when this virus began to torment people, but it is obvious that at least several millennia ago. At first, smallpox rolled out in epidemics, but already in the Middle Ages it was prescribed among people on an ongoing basis. In Europe alone, 1.5 million people per year died from it.

A person suffers the disease once, and then he develops immunity to it. This fact was noticed in India in the VIII century and they began to practice variolation - they infected healthy people from patients with a mild form: they rubbed pus from the bubbles into the skin, into the nose. Variation was brought to Europe in the 18th century. But, firstly, this vaccine was dangerous: every fiftieth patient died from it. Secondly, by infecting people with a real virus, the doctors themselves supported the foci of the disease.

On May 14, 1796, the English doctor Edward Jenner rubbed into two incisions on the skin of an eight-year-old boy, James Phipps, the contents of the vials from the hand of the peasant Sarah Nelme. Sarah was sick with cowpox, a harmless disease spread from cows to humans. On July 1, the doctor inoculated the boy with smallpox, and the smallpox did not take root. From that time on, the history of the destruction of smallpox on the planet began.

Vaccination with cowpox began to be practiced in many countries, and the term "vaccine" was introduced by Louis Pasteur - from the Latin vacca, "cow". The final plan for the eradication of smallpox in the world was developed by Soviet doctors, and it was adopted at the Assembly of the World Health Organization in 1967. By that time, foci of smallpox remained in Africa, Asia and several countries in Latin America. To begin with, we vaccinated as many people as possible. And then they began to search for and suppress isolated foci of the disease. In Indonesia, they paid 5,000 rupees to anyone who brought a sick person to a doctor. In India, they gave 1000 rupees for this, which is several times more than the monthly earnings of a peasant. In Africa, the Americans carried out Operation Crocodile: one hundred mobile brigades in helicopters rushed through the wilderness, like an ambulance. On May 8, 1980, at the 33rd session of WHO, it was officially announced that smallpox had been eradicated from the planet.

Plague, or "black death"

The disease has two main forms: bubonic and pulmonary. In the first, the lymph nodes are affected, in the second, the lungs. Without treatment, after a few days, fever, sepsis begins, and in most cases death occurs.

The planet survived three plague pandemics: "Justinian" 551-580 years, "black death" 1346-1353 years and a pandemic of the late XIX - early XX century. Local epidemics also broke out periodically. The disease was fought by quarantine and, in the late pre-bacterial era, by disinfection of dwellings with carbolic acid.

The first vaccine was created by Vladimir Khavkin at the end of the 19th century. It was used in tens of millions of doses around the world until the 1940s. Unlike the smallpox vaccine, it is not able to eradicate the disease - only to reduce the incidence by 2-5 times, and the mortality rate by 10. The real treatment appeared only after the Second World War, when Soviet doctors used freshly invented streptomycin to eradicate the plague in Manchuria in 1945– 1947 years.

Now the same streptomycin is used against the plague, and the population in the outbreaks is immunized with a live vaccine developed in the 1930s. Today, up to 2,500 cases of plague are registered annually. The mortality rate is 5-10%. For several decades, there have been no epidemics or large outbreaks.

Cholera pandemic - diseases of dirty hands

It is also called the disease of unwashed hands, since the virus enters the body with contaminated water or through contact with the secretions of patients. The disease often does not develop at all, but in 20% of cases, infected people suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.

The disease was terrible.During the third cholera pandemic in Russia in 1848, according to official statistics, 1,772,439 cases were recorded, of which 690,150 were fatal. Cholera riots broke out when terrified people burned down hospitals, considering doctors to be poisoners.

Before the advent of antibiotics, there was no serious treatment for cholera, but Vladimir Khavkin in 1892 created a vaccine from heated bacteria in Paris. He tested it on himself and three friends, emigre Narodnaya Volya members. He conducted a massive study in India, where he achieved a 72% reduction in mortality. Now there is a Hawkin Institute in Bombay. And the vaccine, albeit of a new generation, is still offered by WHO as the main remedy for cholera in its foci.

Today, several hundred thousand cases of cholera are recorded annually in endemic foci. In 2010, the most cases were in Africa and Haiti. Mortality - 1.2% - is significantly lower than a century ago, and this is the merit of antibiotics. However, the main thing is prevention and hygiene.

This disease has always terrified people. And they treated the infected accordingly: from the early Middle Ages, they were locked in leper colony, of which there were tens of thousands in Europe, forced to announce themselves with a bell and a rattle, killed during the Crusades, castrated.

The bacterium was discovered by the Norwegian physician Gerhard Hansen in 1873. For a long time they could not cultivate it outside of a person, and this was necessary in order to find a treatment. They managed to cope with the infection with the help of antibiotics. Dapsone was introduced in the 1940s, and rifampicin and clofazimine were introduced in the 1960s. These three drugs are still included in the course of treatment.

Today, according to statistics from the WHO, leprosy is sick mainly in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Tanzania. Last year, 182 thousand people were affected. This number decreases annually. For comparison: back in 1985, more than five million were sick with leprosy.

Polio: a disease that has crippled thousands of people

The disease is caused by a small virus called Poliovirus hominis, which infects the intestines and, in rare cases, enters the bloodstream and from there into the spinal cord. This development causes paralysis and often death. Most often children are ill. Poliomyelitis is a paradoxical disease. She overtook the developed countries because of good hygiene. In general, serious polio epidemics were not heard of until the 20th century. The reason is that in underdeveloped countries children, due to unsanitary conditions in infancy, get an infection, but at the same time they also receive antibodies to it in their mother's milk. A natural graft comes out. And if hygiene is good, then the infection overtakes an older person, already without "milk" protection.

For example, several epidemics swept across the United States: in 1916, 27 thousand people, children and adults, fell ill. In New York alone, more than two thousand deaths were counted. And during the 1921 epidemic, the future President Roosevelt fell ill, who after that remained a cripple for the rest of his life. Roosevelt's disease marked the beginning of the fight against polio. He invested his funds in research and clinics, and in the 30s the people's love for him was organized in the so-called dime march: hundreds of thousands of people sent him envelopes with coins and thus collected millions of dollars for virology.

The first vaccine was created in 1950 by Jonas Salk. It was very expensive, because monkey kidneys were used as raw materials - 1,500 monkeys were required for a million doses of vaccine. Nevertheless, by 1956, 60 million children had been vaccinated with it, killing 200,000 monkeys.

Around the same time, scientist Albert Sabin made a live vaccine that did not require the killing of animals in such quantities. In the United States, they did not dare to use it for a very long time: after all, it is a live virus. Then Sabin transferred the strains to the USSR, where experts Smorodintsev and Chumakov quickly set up testing and production of the vaccine. They checked on themselves, their children, grandchildren and grandchildren of friends. In 1959-1961, 90 million children and adolescents were vaccinated in the Soviet Union. Poliomyelitis in the USSR disappeared as a phenomenon, only isolated cases remained. Since then, vaccines have wiped out the disease around the world.

Today, polio is endemic in some countries in Africa and Asia.In 1988, WHO adopted a disease control program and by 2001 had reduced the number of cases from 350,000 to 1,500 per year.

Popular by topic