Epidemics in Mexican History



In light of the H1N1 or swine flu virus, there is growing interest in the history of epidemics and disease in Mexico. PreColumbian Mexicans suffered from Osteoarthritis due to continual physical exertion. Evidence of Tuberculosis and syphilis have been found going back 3,000 years as has anemia from nutritional deficiencies.

The first contact with Europeans was devastating for the native population of Mexico. from an estimated population of 15 to 30 million before Spanish contact to an estimated 1.2 million by 1620. Smallpox took a devastating toll on the Aztecs, even killing one of the last Aztec leaders, Cuitlahuatzin. Smallpox epidemics continued to strike in 15 to 20 year cycles in colonial Mexico with great loss of life.In 1798 and in 1803, the Spanish organized a mission to transport an early smallpox vaccine to the Spanish colonies in the Americas and the Philippines, to try to control the disease and did reduce the number of deaths from smallpox. Smallpox was not completely wipedout till the early 1950s.

Measles arrived in the early 1530s. A great epidemic struck again in the 1570s, probably typhus.Cholera first appeared in Mexico in the 1830s, but did not impact the population in the manner of smallpox.

The 1918 flu epidemic or Spanish flu., was a deadly form Influenza A virus strain of subtype H1N1 , believed to have been a mutated swine virus from China,and killed an estimated 20 to 100 million worldwide.An estimated one third of the world's population were infected. It was called the Spanish flu at the time because Spain was particularly hard hit by the influenza virus and reported it openly, while most other countries had wartime restrictions .There are no accurate figures for the numbers of deaths in Mexico from the 1918 epidemic.


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