The Decimating Effects of Infectious Disease in the New World

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The Decimating Effects of Infectious Disease in the New World

"It is often said that in the centuries after Columbus landed in the New
World on 12 October, 1492, more native North Americans died each year from infectious diseases brought by the European settlers than were born." (6) The decimation of people indigenous to the Americas by diseases introduced by
European invaders is unprecedented. While it is difficult to accurately determine the population of the pre-Columbian Americas, scholars estimate the number to have been between 40 and 50 million people. The population in
Mexico alone in 1519 is believed to have been approximately 30 million. By
1568, that number was down to 3 million inhabitants. Although there
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However, tracing epidemiology in the 15th century is difficult because so little was done to identify and classify diseases and their symptoms during this time period. One might say that the New World was "ripe" for the onslaught of hitherto unknown diseases due to several demographic shifts prior to 1492. These are parallel to shifts that occurred in Europe such as the creation of large urban areas. Since city planning wasn't what it is today, cities were overcrowded, sewers were nonexistent or inefficient, and disease carrying vermin multiplied.
This created a welcome mat for infectious disease in addition to the general uncleanliness of the population and the great number of transient people such as soldiers, students, thieves and the mentally ill.

Another factor leading to the assault of disease on medieval Europe was the domestication of large mammals. These animals were the origins of some of the most cursed afflictions of the time. Smallpox is a derivative of cowpox, measles of canine distemper, and influenza of hog diseases. "At first, neither young or old were spared. After generations, susceptible individuals were eliminated and resistant survivors dominated the gene pool. Diseases went from epidemics to childhood ills." (6) It was in this form that diseases were carried to the New World by unsuspecting conquistadors, to a population that had experienced its' own shifts to largely urban and
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