Sunday, April 24, 2016

Disease Killed Many Civil War Troops

By Marlene Gantt, 6-20-14

This year's theme for the World Health Organization is vector-borne diseases, with a first-time focus on dengue, according to the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).

Vector-borne diseases are bacterial and viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and yellow fever have plagued parts of this country for decades. Apparently dengue fever, that is making a comeback, also was around during the Civil War.

Union soldiers during the Civil War became sick with mosquito-borne diseases as they traveled into the southern part of the United States. They already had been weakened by dysentery and chronic diarrhea.There was a disease they simply called Chickahominy fever.It might have been malaria, typhoid, typhus or dengue fever (pronounced dengee).

Gen. George McClellan was felled by malaria and attacks of acute neuralgia. Nine other Union generals became seriously ill of disease at one time or another during one campaign to Richmond. "As McClellan's troops approached Richmond in 1862 thousands were felled by disease in swamps along the sluggish Chickahominy River," according to the book "Smithsonian Civil War -- Inside the National Collection."

"Many terrifying diseases (during the Civil War) had colorful encryption names such as 'childbed fever' for puerperal fever, 'breakbone fever' for dengue fever, 'ague' for malaria, 'consumption' or 'the white plague' for tuberculosis, 'the grippe' for influenza and 'Yellow Jack' or 'the American plague' for yellow fever. People simply described all contagious diseases as 'pestilence'," according to "Civil War America, 1850 to 1875" by Richard F. Seicer. ...

Civil War soldiers had several other communicable diseases such as measles and whooping cough. "A single measles epidemic at Camp Moore, training centre in North Louisiana, killed 600 to 700 recruits," wrote John Macdonald in "The Historical Atlas of the Civil War."

There was an epidemic of dengue in July 1850-1851 in southern port sites beginning with Charleston, S.C., preceding the Civil War.

Aedes Aeqypti and Ae. Albopictus are the primary mosquito vectors for yellow fever and dengue fever, according to the CDC. The species is found throughout most tropical to subtropical world regions including many states in the U.S. according to the Department of Entomology at Rutgers University, New Jersey.

During the Spanish-American War, U. S. troops suffered more casualties from yellow fever than enemy fire. In the Cabanatuan prison camp at Manila in the Philippines during World War II everyone had dysentery to some degree. Rice was the daily fare with a few greens and a little fish. Dengue fever plagued many and little could be done for them, according to James F. McIntosh in his book "Wisconsin at War."

Dengue and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever viruses infect up to 100 million people annually, according to the CDC. Transmission occurs when a female Aedes mosquito bites an infected individual. The mosquito becomes infected and gives the infection to a person it bites. The incubation period for an infected individual can be five days or longer. Dengue fever can progress into dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) causes a fever lasting from two to seven days. When the fever declines, this marks the beginning of a 24-28 hour period when the smallest blood vessels (capillaries) become permeable (leaky) allowing the fluid component to escape from the blood vessels into the peritoneum and pleural cavity (leading to pleural effusions)

This may lead to failure of the circulatory system and shock and possibly death without prompt, appropriate treatment, according to the CDC. The patient will bruise easily or have skin hemorrhages, bleeding nose or gums and possibly internal bleeding. There is no specific medication for treatment of a dengue infection. Fluid replacement therapy may help.

For dengue fever a patient should avoid pills containing ibuprofen, Naproxen and aspirin, according to the CDC.

There is very good description of dengue fever in the novel, "The Testament" by John Grisham. The main character, Nate, a lawyer, ends up in the Brazilian jungle looking for a missionary who has inherited a lot of money. He contracts dengue fever.

At first the characters in the book think he has malaria. Nate can barely hear them talking to him. They say it is similar to malaria because Nate has a fever and chills and sore muscles and joints. But a rash on Nate indicated it was dengue. Nate was covered with mosquito bites. His eyes were swollen shut. His fever was high. He became delirious. He was taken to a primitive hospital and given antibiotics and painkillers, and lots of water.

Today we have an enormous problem facing us as 162,000 people from countries other than Mexico have crossed our southern border during a time span from last October to the end of May. Sporadic outbreaks of dengue fever with local transmission have occurred in Florida, Hawaii, and along the Texas-Mexico border.

Because of the seven-day viremia bloodborne transmission is possible. (Viremia occurs when the virus enters the bloodstream and has access to the rest of the body, bloodborne transmission is then possible through exposure to infected blood, organs, other tissues and bone marrow.)

This could be through shared needles, a cut, secretions or inhalation of aerosolized virus. A person might not appear to be sick upon entry to the U.S. and still be able to transmit dengue and other diseases such as the West Nile virus and HIV- diseases for which there is no specific cure.

Marlene Gantt, of Port Byron, is a former Rock Island school teacher.

From: qconline.com

Image: Aedes aegypti mosquito


extremely miserable to peruse this.

Common War officers had a few other transmittable sicknesses, for example, measles and whooping hack. so miserable.

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