Epidemic Disease History Essay

Epidemic Disease History Essay

An epidemic is a contagious disease that affects a large number of people within a community or region. Epidemics happen when an agent and susceptible hosts are present in adequate numbers, and the agent is transferred from the source carrying the disease to an easy host (CDC, 2021). Epidemics are classified by how they spread. They spread through the population either by a common source, propagated, mixed, or other. Propagated outbreaks are a result of person-to-person contact. The cases occur over one incubation period. Mixed outbreaks happen when there is a mix of propagated and common source outbreaks.


Common source outbreaks are associated with coming from only one source and affect a group of people. Common sources are further divided into point source outbreak where a group is exposed from the same source over a short period, such as the Hiroshima bombing that led to a rise in leukemia. The ongoing common-source outbreak occurs when a patient is exposed to the disease over a more extended period, maybe weeks, days, or longer. The curve’s downward slope becomes very sharp if the common source is removed, or if the outbreak is let to exhaust itself. Intermittent common source outbreak has a design that reflects the imminent nature of the revelation (CDC, 2021). Epidemic Disease History Essay

Question 1

Epidemics are closely associated with civilization, just as seen during early man when he switched from hunting and gathering to rearing animals. The rearing of animals and the formulation of close quarters civilization resulted in the transfer of infectious diseases from animals to humans by close contact. A disease like smallpox is closely related to cowpox and with a combination of other animal infections. Humans share diseases with animals such as poultry, pigs, horses, cattle, and dogs.

Person-to-person civilized types of infectious diseases were rampant, much after 3000BC because communities became more organized and stopped living in isolation. Living close by and incorporating animal keeping led to the devastating infections of diseases from one civilization to another. Until the last century, cities could not maintain the populations without immigrants from the rural areas or other countries. The urban health hazard was unbearable in addition to person-to-person infections as childhood diseases are introduced by inhaling infected air droplets. Sanitation is a problem that ancient cities face through the constant contamination of water, combined with and an array of insect-borne diseases (McNeill & McNeill, 1998).  Because of the endemic challenges, cities could not sustain themselves, they needed food from rural areas and an influx of immigrants to replace the affected ones. A good example is when Cholera spread through Great Britain in the 1830s through the 1850s when it was successfully isolated.

The lack of proper sanitation facilities primarily brought on the reason for the outbreaks; for instance, two sitting presidents Zachary Taylor and William Henry Ford, died due to diseases stemming from poor sanitation that was later discovered and led to the creation of a new sewer system in the white house. The other is due to the rearing of animals near homes that spread the diseases to humans since they discovered a better way other than hunting for meat. The settling down in one area resulted in the rapid spread of diseases, unlike areas that were not as civilized.

Some of the epidemics include epidemic typhus caused by a bacterium called Rickettsia prowazekii transmitted by body lice. It was prevalent during world war two after it struck the overcrowded German Army while undertaking Operation Barbarossa in 1921. The disease spread from squirrels leading to body rash, nausea, high fever, and diarrhea. Cholera is another epidemic disease caused by ingesting contaminated foods and unsafe drinking water infected by Vibrio cholera. The diseases cause severe diarrhea that leads to severe dehydration. Epidemic Disease History Essay

Question 2

Greece is an ancient civilization that was hit by many epidemics during its existence. The first was the plague that erupted in Athens in 430BCE. It traveled throughout Greece and died out in the Mediterranean in 436BCE. The origins are said to come from sub-Saharan Africa just south of Ethiopia and traveled through Egypt and across the Mediterranean into Persia and finally arrived in Greece (Horgan, 2016). The epidemic is said to have killed at least a third of the population. Thucydides was responsible for recording the accounts of the plague and the fight between Greece and Spartans. The disease was unidentified until 1894 CE as Yersinia Pestis, which was a cause of most of the plagues in Greece but not all of them. Yersinia Pestis originated from bats to humans and was lethal, spreading rapidly in the body, causing death within nine days. The war between Sparta and Greece made the fighters retreat into the close quarters on Pericles orders that facilitated the rapid spread of the Yersinia Pestis due to overcrowding. The symptoms included sneezing, coughing, sore throat, bad breath, chest pains, and insomnia (Horgan, 2016). Due to Pericles’s death and reduced population, Athens was significantly weakened and lost Sparta’s war.


The Antonine plagues affected the Roman empire from 165BCE to 180BCE after first being identified in the Roman Army. At the time, the roman empire was controlled by Lucius Verus (died in 169CE) and Marcus Aurelius (died in 180CE). By the end of 180BC, it has killed over 5 million people. The second wave of the plague came during the 251-266BCE and was caused by Yersinia Pestis. The plagues were the beginning of the fall of the roman empire. The symptoms include vomiting, thirst, swollen throat, coughing, and diarrhea that appeared black, which indicated gastrointestinal bleeding, rash, and foul mouth. It was spread from China and brought back through the silk road and by trading ships before going to Rome. Epidemic Disease History Essay

The Romans’ death rate at 155-235CE was estimated to be around 2000 deaths a day at the outbreak’s peak. In the second outbreak, the number rose to at least 5,000 deaths a day. The deaths of that many people caused workforce shortages, especially the Army, which was unable to defend the Roman empire, resulting in the recruitment of any abled man to fight for the empire. Furthermore, the horrific death toll made the food in the farms go bad because there were no people to harvest it, and also no people were available to replant for the next season, thus leading to food shortages (Horgan, 2019). The empire was faced with low tax revenue and the non-disabled who worked demanded higher wages. The fall of the roman empire was partly contributed by the infiltration of Christians who offered to take care of the sick during this time and encouraged prayer. More people were converted to Christians when they felt better.


CDC. (2021). Principles of Epidemiology. https://www.cdc.gov/csels/dsepd/ss1978/lesson1/section11.html

Horgan, J. (2019). Antonine Plague. Retrieved from Ancient history Encyclopedia: https://www. Ancient. eu/Antonine_Plague.

Horgan, J. (2016). The Plague at Athens, 430-427 BCE. Ancient History Encyclopedia.

McNeill, W. H., & McNeill, W. (1998). Plagues and peoples. Anchor. Epidemic Disease History Essay

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