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, 15 (3), 313-27

The European-American Exchange

  • PMID: 7529930

The European-American Exchange

F Guerra. Hist Philos Life Sci.

Abstract

The European-American exchange of infectious diseases was responsible for the demographic havoc of the native population in the New World after 1492. Prior to this date medical writers describe the presence in Spain of viral diseases like influenza, parotitis, smallpox, measles, poliomyelitis, and rabies; there were also rickettsiasis, diphtheria, salmonellosis, plague, tubercolosis, leprosy, malaria, scabies and tinea. In America, before European arrivals, there were no records of human viral diseases, though there were records of rickettsiasis, treponematosis--pinta, yaws and syphilis--leihsmaniasis, amibiasis and perhaps leprosy. With the discovery of America in 1492, Columbus's sailors were contaminated by yaws and spread this disease into Europe. In 1493 influenza, as a zoonosis, was introduced into Santo Domingo and was responsible for the annihilation of the natives of the Antilles in less than a quarter of a century; in 1518 smallpox was also introduced in Santo Domingo and then to the American continent by negro slaves: by the same means measles were introduced in 1531. The previous existence or introduction of other infectious diseases in America is also discussed.

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