Infectious Disease and Demise of the Indians in the New World

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Infectious Disease and Demise of the Indians in the New World

The European conquest of the New World was not caused by guns, swords, or barbaric type behavior but by the invisible danger- germs. Infectious diseases have played a major role in shaping the conquest of the New World. Vast amounts of people indigenous to the Americas died due to various types of diseases. It is often said that in the centuries after Columbus landed in the New World on 12 October 1492, more native North Americans died each year from infectious diseases brought by the European settlers than were born (Meltzer 38). Disease was the principle reason for the demise of the Indians.

Most infectious diseases result from a microparasite. Microparasites may be
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This disease can cause a blockage of the air passage to the lungs and can cause suffocation or death. Whooping cough is also highly contagious and can cause violent coughing. The person can also turn blue, due to the lack of oxygen, vomit, or go into convulsions. Influenza virus that infects people does not infect other hosts. Influenza is transmitted through air droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing. Measles is a highly contagious viral disease, which can enter the body through the eye or respiratory tract. Symptoms such as a rash, high fever, delirium, and eye pain can occur. Mumps also occurs in the respiratory tract and later the infection can spread throughout the body. Swelling of the glands can occur. Typhus is considered a vector-borne disease meaning an intermediate host is involved. Symptoms include fever, weakness, and hemorrhagic rash. Smallpox is a virus that enters the respiratory tract. Symptoms include lesions on the body, fever, exhaustion, chills, and headaches.

The origin of disease in the New World and the Old World is very different. In the Old World, Europeans had already come in contact with various types of infectious disease and acquired immunity. The European’s genes also became resistant overtime. Through natural selection the relative frequency of a gene appears to change over generations. For an example, people who have acquired resistant genes over

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