The curse of the 20s: a centurial outbreak

This year began with memes of World War III and the plagues of the 20s, only one of those seems to be a joke though. For a few centuries now, there have been plagues and outbreaks at the turn of the second decade. 

One of the earliest was 1620 where a series of plagues struck the newly colonized southeastern coast of the present-day United States. This outbreak isn’t well documented so the sudden increase in Native American deaths has yet to be linked to a specific disease, but yellow fever and smallpox are likely candidates. In the same decade, there was also an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Italy that took the lives of over 300,000 people. 

Then in 1720 came the Great Plague of Marseille; over 100,000 people died due to unsanitary conditions and failed quarantines in the two years it was most prevalent. Just like the Black Death, the disease spread through rats and contact with infected victims.

1820 brought the first of several Cholera pandemics. It began in India but quickly spread through Southern Asia and the Middle East and eventually to parts of Eastern Europe. The disease spread through physical contact and traveled along shipping routes. Cholera is caused by bacteria, so it likely died out due to a harsh winter in 1823-1824.

Up until now, the most recent plague had been the outbreak of Spanish Flu in 1920. Similar to this year’s memes, the main focus of the news was World War I and the spread of Spanish Influenza. The flu was estimated to have caused nearly twice as many deaths as WWI though and may have mutated into the avian and swine influenzas.

And now in 2020, we have the Coronavirus (named for the virus’ crown shape, not because of the beer). Widespread panic is the most dangerous part of this infection. It causes the same symptoms as other respiratory illnesses and has repeatedly been mistaken for the flu however, it is rarely fatal according to the World Health Organization (WHO). As of February 21, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed 34 cases of Coronavirus in the United States, only 13 of which are considered US cases. The virus is not in Colorado, but if it does make an appearance then there are simple steps to prevent the contraction of the infection.

These steps include things like washing your hands regularly—especially after contact with surfaces in a public place such as a restaurant or store—and trying not to touch your face without doing so. Drinking lots of water, eating well, and staying active can go a long way to support your physical health as well. These actions can help keep you from getting the flu or even something as seemingly minor as a cold. Every past outbreak could have been better contained with better hygiene practices; transmission decreases significantly when people wash their hands and cover their coughs. And if you do end up getting sick, GO TO THE DOCTOR. The Mines Wellness Center has flu shots and other supplies to help you get better. It may feel like just a common cold, but you can get over it a lot faster with proper care and you will help keep others from getting sick too. 

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