Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Black Death did not kill indiscriminately + H5N1 Breaking News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Black Death that decimated populations in Europe and elsewhere during the middle of the 14th century may not have been a blindly indiscriminate killer, as some experts have believed.

An analysis of 490 skeletons from a London for Black Death victims demonstrated that the infection did not affect everyone equally, two U.S. scientists said on Monday.

While many perfectly healthy people certainly were cut down, those already in poor health prior to the arrival of the plague were more likely to have perished, they found.

"A lot of people have assumed that the Black Death killed indiscriminately, just because it had such massive mortality," anthropologist Sharon DeWitte of the University at Albany in New York, said in a telephone interview.

People already in poor health often are more vulnerable in epidemics. "But there's been a tradition of thinking that the Black Death was this unique case where no one was safe and if you were exposed to the disease that was it. You had three to five days, and then you were dead," DeWitte said.

The plague epidemic of 1347 to 1351 was one of the deadliest recorded in human history, killing about 75 million people, according to some estimates, including more than a third of Europe's population.

DeWitte analyzed skeletons unearthed from the East Smithfield cemetery in London, dug especially for plague victims and excavated in the 1980s, for bone and teeth abnormalities that would show that people had health problems before they died of plague.

She found such abnormalities in many skeletons, suggesting these people had experienced malnutrition, iron deficiencies and infections well before succumbing to the Black Death.

The proportion of people with such signs of frailty in the cemetery, compared to those who appeared to have been of robust health before the epidemic, indicated that the infection was somewhat selective in who it killed, DeWitte and Pennsylvania State University anthropologist James Wood reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some experts have thought the Black Death -- named after the black spots the bubonic form of the plague caused on the skin -- killed indiscriminately regardless of age, sex or level of health because it was so virulent and the European population so immunologically unprepared, DeWitte and Wood wrote.

"The Black Death was highly virulent and undoubtedly killed many otherwise healthy people who would have been unlikely to die under normal-mortality conditions," they wrote. But people already in poor health were more likely to die, they wrote.

By Will Dunham

Bird flu spreads to fresh areas, culling target jacked up

NVDL: H5N1 unleashes a cytokine storm, and the degree of this reaction is directly proportionate to immunity. In a bizarre and macabre twist, the healthier you are, the more your body would fill up with puss.
(Wiki: a healthy immune system may have been a liability rather than an asset).Thus H5N1 has been found to be most lethal in healthy individuals aged 20-40. Naturally people suffering from AIDs etc. present a brush fire scenario for such an epidemic. The story immediately above was posted yesterday. The story below was posted 12 hours ago:

Indonesia logs 4 H5N1 cases; death toll reaches 100

This story appeared 58 minutes ago:
H5N1 bird flu detected in two Thai provinces

This story appeared two days ago:
Sixth swan tests positive for H5N1 bird flu: British officials

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