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Illness as Old as Humanity: A History of Widespread Disease

History of Contagious Diseases

Since the origins of mankind, infectious diseases have proven inescapable companions, traversing continents and cultures. This exhaustive examination of history’s most far-reaching diseases spans relatively harmless childhood maladies to devastating pandemic outbreaks.

The Universal Afflictions: Colds, Flu and More

Among humanity’s most democratic afflictions is the common cold, caused not by one but over 200 viral strains amounting to more than a billion annual cases in the United States alone. Adults suffer 2-4 colds per year; young children, with developing immunity, endure up to 10 annually. Typically cold symptoms like congestion, coughs, and fatigue last less than two weeks; risks include strep, pneumonia, and more. Meanwhile influenza, with its fevers, body aches, and coughs, strikes up to 20% of the global population each year, contributing to nearly 650,000 average annual fatalities. Available vaccines mitigate but don’t eliminate risk.

Childhood Miseries: From Chickenpox to Kissing Disease  

Pediatric populations endure their own set of highly communicable illnesses. Chickenpox, known for skin lesions and fever, often strikes pre-school children; while usually self-limiting, infection poses risks like birth defects to pregnant women’s developing fetuses. Measles outbreaks, despite vaccination, persist, causing rashes, high fever, and even blindness, swelling of the brain, and pneumonia. Mumps, passed by saliva, means swollen glands and fever, occasionally progressing to meningitis or deafness. Epstein-Barr virus passes by kissing, shared glasses, etc., causing mononucleosis: debilitating fatigue lasting weeks or months. Additionally, you can also read about- Mysterious Pneumonia Outbreak in China Raises Concerns: WHO Issues Advisory

Sexually Spread Infections: Social Stigma and Hidden Health Threats

Intimate contact facilitates transmission of potentially life-altering diseases like HIV, HPV, herpes, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis among others. Virulence and visibility varies; HIV, for example, may hide asymptomatic for a decade before enabling dangerous infections or cancers, while syphilis progresses through stages including rashes, lesions, and organ damage if neglected. Sociocultural taboos often inhibit vital prevention and treatment. Up to 80 million Americans live with HPV; over 1.1 million have HIV. Education and research remain paramount to restrain escalation.  

You May Find Interest: HIV Testing Data Suggests An Increase Of Cases


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