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16th Century U.K. Epidemics and its Impact on the British - Essay Example

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This paper discusses the impact of epidemics upon the British people in the 16th century (1500-1600) with reference to three common diseases. The first part is a brief introduction on what an epidemic is and its causes.The second part is on England before and during the 16th century to show why it became prone to epidemics…
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16th Century U.K. Epidemics and its Impact on the British
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Download file to see previous pages This paper discusses the impact of epidemics upon the British people in the 16th century (1500-1600) with reference to three common diseases. The first part is a brief introduction on what an epidemic is and its causes.The second part is on England before and during the 16th century to show why it became prone to epidemics The third part is on epidemics of malaria, influenza, and the plague in 16th century England and its effects on the English people and their history.An epidemic is an outbreak of a contagious disease that affects an unusually large proportion of people or involves an extensive geographical area. Epidemics such as the recent SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in Asia may last for a few months, but some last for years, such as the plague that ravaged Europe for six centuries (Encarta, 2007; Ranger & Slack, 1992).Epidemiology is the study of how diseases are transmitted and how people infected by diseases can be cured to control the extent of epidemics. Diseases are caused by organisms such as bacteria or parasites, some of which lie dormant until they reside in a living host.Others are caused by viruses, strands of DNA that enter cells of living creatures and cause mutations that affect the living body. Once these organisms enter the host through infection, they multiply and cause the host to get sick, turning the host into a carrier of disease-causing organisms in very large numbers.
Disease-causing organisms are spread by contamination of food and water, physical contact, or the exchange of bodily fluids like saliva, semen, or blood, or through insects, rodents, and other disease-carrying animals known as vectors or agents that infect human populations. In the past, these diseases were believed to be caused by "germs" that spread their evil effects in the air.
So lethal were these germs that they changed the fates of human societies in the last 13,000 years (Diamond, 2005). Germs went through a deadly cycle of mutation and adaptation, infecting animals and humans, each mutation giving rise to deadlier forms or diseases.
Bacteria, parasites, and viruses need to eat in order to live and multiply. Germs (or microbes) do not exist to kill other living beings. Death is an unfortunate consequence, and if germs had their way, they would prefer their hosts to stay healthy, as millions of bacteria already do in the human body, helping in digestion and fighting deadlier diseases.
Disease and death are unintended consequences of germs finding living bodies in which to live, encouraged by environmental conditions and the habits of the living hosts. Poor living conditions and poor sanitation, the concentration of populations into a smaller area that encouraged greater and frequent social contact, the thirst for discovery and travel to foreign lands, the search for greater wealth and prosperity, changes in weather conditions, and even a rise in promiscuity were the factors that increased the frequency of disease and epidemics (Wilkinson, 1992).
Epidemics eventually die down once the conditions for their transmission disappear. In several parts of Europe in the Middle Ages, the plague disappeared from a town because half its population who were still healthy and uninfected were able to get away, while half including animals were infected and died. With no new living hosts, the bacteria could not survive.
Weather changes also affected the rate of infection, whether they encouraged people to stay home or to go out. Either way, infection could spread at a faster rate through proximity and social contact. These conditions led to epidemics that would die down when these factors disappear.
England in the 16th Century
At the turn of the 16th century, Spain and Portugal was the European superpower, and having just discovered America through Columbus, it launched until the middle of the 16th century several sea voyages that led to the discovery of South America, Africa, the Pacific ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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