Modern Day Knowledge Of Scurvy And Treatment

1640 Words7 Pages
European sailing ships first penetrated deep into the Indian and Pacific oceans in the 15th century with the intent of exploration, wealth, and war. The casualties were appalling. Historical records document that the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama lost two-thirds of his crew to scurvy symptoms while traveling to India in 1499. Circumnavigator Ferdinand Magellan suffered 80% casualties to Scurvy. Among Magellan’s fleet of five galleons, only one ship survived the globe-trotting excursion. During the glorious age of sail, scurvy had claimed more sailors’ lives than all the others diseases and war combined. A stunning record of 2 million sailors perished between the 16th and 19th century among the combined European seafaring…show more content…
Throughout the course of up to three months, a sailor’s health degrades ominously. Shortness of breath, bone, and muscle pain (myalgia) intensify. Finally obvious objective symptoms manifest. Petechiae and jaundice appear on the sailor’s skin. Teeth dislodge, and injuries incurred from day to day ship maintenance no longer heal. As crippling symptoms of edema, oliguria, and neuropathy worsen, fever and convulsions finally seal the sailor’s demise. When the British navy’s Commodore Anson attempted to raid Spanish shipping lanes in 1740 (during the epic Seven Years’ War), scurvy proved to be more vicious than Spanish gunpowder. Tragically yet predictably, only one ship out of the squadron of six returned from its mission. The Chaplain of commodore’s flagship described stricken sailors’ symptoms as: “skin black as ink, ulcers, difficult respiration, rictus of the limbs, teeth falling out and, perhaps the most revolting of all, a strange plethora of gum tissue sprouting out of the mouth, which immediately rotted and lent the victim’s breath an abominable odor.”
Modern day scurvy treatment and prevention is remarkably simple. Unlike most of the animal kingdom, the human body cannot synthesize Ascorbic Acid, so this vital coenzyme must be ingested. Schoolchildren are taught at an early age that oranges provide ample amounts of Vitamin C. Lesser known but excellent sources of Vitamin C also
Get Access