Friday, April 28, 2006

Athens' Pandemic!

There was a virulent pandemic in ancient Athens in 430 BC. In four years it killed about a third of the Athenian population, contributing to Athens' downfall. Thucydides, who caught it and recovered, told of its symptons: fever, rash and diarrhea.

For years historians have wondered exactly what it was. Now, Manolis J. Papagrigorakis, a research dentist at the University of Athens has diagnosed the disease from victims unearthed in a cemetery of Athens. His team found bacterium Salmonella Typhi, the germ that causes typhoid fever.

It makes sense. During the time of the plague, Athens was in the middle of the Peloponnesian War with Sparta. Besieged and overcrowded, this certainly would have led to unsanitary water supplies which could have caused the disease to spread .. a plague or the current 21st century term -- a pandemic! See Natural History Magazine, p. 13. 5/06.

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