Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Bugs not Bombs

Disease has always killed more soldiers than bombs or bullets.

headsup TeaAtTrianon Germs in warfare

Military History Now:

read the whole thing. All those romantic films leave this part out.

Missing from the report: That much of the laundry and cooking was done by "campfollowers".

Lack of baths and not cleaning clothing frequently led to lice and typhus. Typhus killed thousands of Napoleon's troops on his Russian expedition, starting before he even entered that country and spreading through the army during it's march to Moscow.

Ironically, there are a lack of reports on the Russian Imperial Army's attitude against disease in that war, but one suspects they too suffered...

a BBC article about how the French started the Crimean war includes this;

The human cost was immense, 25,000 British, 100,000 French and up to a million Russians died, almost all of disease and neglect.
more HERE

and the most famous survivor of WWI "Trench fever", JRRTolkien, may have caught it from dead German soldiers, since his unit captured German trenches and stayed in these for several days.

Poorly  built latrines led to typhoid and dysentary and cholera (and note my previous post about poorly built latrine that led to the Cholera epidemic in Haiti).

bad diets led to poorly nourished soldiers who were prone to get disease and sometimes suffered from scurvy or pellegra from vitamin deficiency

Most of the discussion is about 18th and 19th century soldiers.

Not mentioned: STD....for example, it was syphilis caught from the lovely ladies of Naples that destroyed the army of CharlesVII  in 1495.

Or the problem of smallpox in the American revolution: American born rarely had had the disease and lacked immunity, whereas many of the Europeans had had a case of it as children so were immune.

Washington mandated smallpox innoculation (with a weak version of the actual virus, since this was before the cowpox virus was found to confer immunity). As a result, his army was safe, unlike the Americans who invaded Canada or the black slaves who joined the Loyalists, both of whom were decimated by smallpox.

but even after the vaccine was available, a lot of the casualties in the Franco Prussian wars were from a localized smallpox epidemic. from Military History Now:

While a smallpox outbreak gutted the French military to the tune of 23,000 lives, the German armies lost fewer than 460 men to the disfiguring and often-fatal virus. Why? Because before marching off to war, Prussian leader Otto von Bismarck ordered his troops vaccinated against smallpox. France didn’t. Yet although German soldiers were safe, the disease spread rapidly across the continent following the conflict, thanks in part to the advent of railroads. By 1875, as many as a half-million Europeans were dead from smallpox.
more HERE

the man who was behind the complete eradification of smallpox, DA Henderson, has just died. Probably saved a couple million lives.

Instapundit had a discussion, with links to an article that noted, since Anthrax defrosted and caused a mini epidemic, could smallpox do the same? Link3
more at the UKMail

well, anthrax causes spores which can last quite a long time in the environment. But viruses usually can't live long outside their host.

Nature Article discusses here.

Scientists have actually done a few studies on smallpox in mummies and even dug up corpses frozen, partly to learn about which strain caused the deaths and if it was the same as modern smallpox.

So far however, the virus was degraded and could not cause infections.

Scientists at Russia's VECTOR lab in Koltsovo had been thinking about this possibility years earlier. In 1991, a team set out for another village in Yakutia to try to isolate virus DNA from a handful of corpses that had been unearthed by a flood. The researchers were unable to recover any viable virus, or even any dead virus that had retained its shape. “It was a great disappointment,” Henderson says. The tissue was well preserved and the virus should have been present. But the Russian scientists were among the best in the business, he says. “If they couldn't get it, it was ungettable.”

the real danger is that some state backed terrorist organization could synthesize the virus because the genome is known.

What probably stops that is the idea of "blow back": The germ would get back and kill them too.

But don't feel too safe: in one of these articles it notes that there is a worry that influenza virus from defrosting corpses could still be viable, and some people think that this is how migrating birds pick it up to spread when they fly south.

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