Megadrought and megadeath in 16th century Mexico

Emerg Infect Dis. 2002 Apr;8(4):360-2. doi: 10.3201/eid0804.010175.


The native population collapse in 16th century Mexico was a demographic catastrophe with one of the highest death rates in history. Recently developed tree-ring evidence has allowed the levels of precipitation to be reconstructed for north central Mexico, adding to the growing body of epidemiologic evidence and indicating that the 1545 and 1576 epidemics of cocoliztli (Nahuatl for "pest") were indigenous hemorrhagic fevers transmitted by rodent hosts and aggravated by extreme drought conditions.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Disasters / history*
  • Disease Outbreaks / history*
  • Hemorrhagic Fevers, Viral / epidemiology
  • Hemorrhagic Fevers, Viral / history
  • Hemorrhagic Fevers, Viral / transmission
  • History, 16th Century
  • Humans
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses / history*
  • Zoonoses / transmission