History of Mysterious Diseases

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St. Anthony’s Fire

When you think of the Middle Ages, you probably imagine knights in armor, kings and queens, and peasants living in poverty. But you may not have thought about their medical problems. In this era before modern medicine, many people believed that diseases were caused by demons or witches. If a person suffered from any mysterious ailment, it was said that they had been cursed by these dark forces.

The disease known as St. Anthony’s Fire was named for an abbot whose body was found to be covered with bright red spots after he died. The disease causes burns on the skin and is accompanied by fever and chills; however, there are no identifiable bacteria or viruses associated with its spread—making it difficult for doctors to treat patients who contract the illness today.

The Great Famine of 1315-1317

The Great Famine of 1315-1317 was a period of widespread famine and plague in Europe. The famine was preceded by a period of unusually heavy rains and cooler temperatures, which caused widespread crop failures, particularly in northern France. Climatic change, volcanic activity, and other factors contributed to the famine; however, most historians agree that climate change played the largest role in causing this disaster.

Over five million people died from starvation or disease during this famine—an eighth of Europe’s population at the time—and another two million migrated elsewhere for work or shelter. This was only one part of three great famines across medieval Europe (also known as The Black Death) that decimated populations throughout Europe between 1315 and 1350 CE: The Great Famine followed by several smaller regional famines such as those in England between 1316-1322 CE, Italy between 1328-1335 CE, Switzerland between 1340-1345 CE and Scotland during its second year under English rule (1346 CE).


Influenza is one of the most common diseases in the world. It’s caused by a virus and can spread easily from person to person. The flu usually comes on suddenly, but you may feel feverish, tired, and have a sore throat, headache, cough, and muscle aches for about a week. Sometimes diarrhea or vomiting also occurs.

The flu vaccine can greatly reduce your risk of getting sick with influenza if you get it before the start of flu season (which begins in October). An annual seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months or older unless they have had a severe allergic reaction to an earlier dose. In case of emergency situations such as pandemics or bioterrorism attacks where vaccines are in short supply or not available at all, antiviral medications like Tamiflu® (oseltamivir) may be used instead to help protect against infection with influenza viruses that cause this condition

The Black Death

The Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. It’s believed to have begun in China and spread through Europe in waves between 1347 and 1350. Estimates vary widely on how many people died as a result—estimates range from 75 million to 200 million.

It’s believed that this disease spread when fleas bit infected rodents and then bit humans carrying the plague microbe on their clothes or skin (the germ would transfer through bites). Symptoms included fever, cough, black spots on the skin that turned into gangrene (a kind of rot), and coma before death occurred within days or weeks from dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting blood.


Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals. It is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. The disease occurs in all tropical and subtropical regions of the world, where there are mosquitos that carry the parasite’s eggs.

Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever and flu-like illness, in severe cases progressing to coma or death. In 2015, 216 million cases of malaria occurred globally, resulting in an estimated 438,000 deaths (7% of which were children).

Malaria is one of the world’s major public health problems and reducing its impact on human populations has become a priority for international development efforts.

Crohn’s disease

When you think of Crohn’s disease, you may imagine a painful and debilitating condition that affects the digestive system. This can be true, but not everyone who has Crohn’s disease experiences those symptoms.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which means it causes inflammation in certain parts of the digestive tract — specifically anywhere from your mouth to your anus. Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are types of IBDs; however, people with these conditions experience different symptoms based on where their inflammation occurs along their intestines.

The most common symptom of Crohn’s disease is abdominal pain or discomfort that comes and goes over time — sometimes lasting only a few days at a time but other times lasting for months or even years at a time. People with this painful condition often experience severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition as well as other complications like rectal bleeding or skin disorders such as psoriasis caused by inflammation around their lower body organs such as the anus or vagina.

Leprosy (Hansen’s disease)

Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is a bacterial infection that causes skin lesions and nerve damage. It’s been around for centuries—the word leprosy comes from the Greek “lepra,” meaning ‘scaly.’ The first recorded cases are found in India during the 5th century BC; other possible sources include ancient China, Egypt, and Scandinavia.

The Bible names leprosy as one of the seven plagues visited upon Egypt by God to convince Pharaoh to release Moses from bondage (see Exodus 12:29). In Medieval Europe, people with leprosy were exiled from their communities because they were viewed as unclean and dangerous; often forced to live apart in colonies where they worked on public projects such as roads or bridges. Today it’s estimated between 2 million and 3 million people worldwide are living with this disease—many receiving treatment through either multidrug therapy or surgery if symptoms worsen.

While there have been several outbreaks in Hawaii over decades due mostly due to a lack of awareness among locals about transmission methods like direct contact via infected fluid or mucus membranes including eyes mouth nose ears genitals hands feet etc.

Typhoid fever

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella typhi. It’s characterized by a high fever and abdominal pain, though some people report headaches and loss of appetite. The disease can be prevented through vaccination and treated with antibiotics if it does occur. Typhoid is still common in developing countries, but it has become less common in developed nations due to improved sanitation and clean water sources (and therefore less frequent exposure to the bacteria).

If you’re traveling somewhere where typhoid might be present, you can avoid getting sick by washing your hands before eating and drinking; avoiding potentially contaminated food or water; never preparing food for others without first washing your hands thoroughly; avoiding raw foods like seafood or undercooked meat; cleaning your toothbrush after use; staying away from crowds when traveling


Cholera is a rare but serious disease that can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, and death. If you think you or someone in your family has cholera, see a doctor right away!

Cholera is caused by bacteria called Vibrio cholerae. You usually get it from drinking water or eating food contaminated with bacteria. It spreads when an infected person’s feces (poop) gets into the water supply or onto food that other people eat. You also can get cholera from swallowing ocean water contaminated with feces from humans or animals living near shorelines (like dolphins).

People who travel to countries where cholera is common should take precautions to avoid getting sick while they are there and when they return home. The best way to prevent cholera is through proper hygiene and sanitation practices that include washing hands with soap after using the bathroom, cleaning fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them—and not drinking untreated water if you’re abroad!

Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918

The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 is considered the deadliest pandemic in recorded history. It killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide, making it a very significant threat to global health. The disease started in Kansas in 1918 and spread quickly because of World War I.

The symptoms included high fever, headache, aches, and pains. Many people died within hours of showing symptoms of the disease—often within 36 hours. In some cases, if you contracted Spanish flu but survived its initial stages, you could still die later from complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis caused by the virus’s damage to your lungs.

The history of the world has been punctuated by pandemics and other diseases that have caused the great tragedy

The history of the world has been punctuated by pandemics and other diseases that have caused the great tragedy. This is especially true in times of war when large numbers of people are brought together in close quarters and forced to live in unsanitary conditions. Examples include the Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed millions of people; and the Black Death (Bubonic plague) which killed almost half of Europe’s population in the 14th century.

By John Gurung

A former software developer who is now a blogging enthusiast. A true digital nomad.

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