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10 Oldest Known Diseases


9
Typhoid
Jumping in the river would've seemed like a good way for a typhoid victim to cool off a fever -- though the disease spreads easily through the water.
Jumping in the river would've seemed like a good way for a typhoid victim to cool off a fever -- though the disease spreads easily through the water.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

From 430 to 426 B.C.E., a great plague swept through the city-state of Athens. The historian Thucydides describes the symptoms this way:

People in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head and the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid breath. When it fixed in the stomach, it upset it; and discharges of bile of every kind named by physicians ensued, accompanied by very great distress. If they passed this stage, and the disease descended further into the bowels, inducing a violent ulceration there accompanied by severe diarrhea, this brought on a weakness which was generally fatal.

The disease couldn't have come at a worse time. The plague contributed to Athens' eventual loss to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War and a long hiatus for democracy in world history.

What was the cause of this plague?


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