During the last centuries, people suffered a lot because of illnesses and diseases which could not be defended yet. Especially young children and old people were the first victims of epidemics. The reasons for these sad incidents were often a bad health constitution, malnutrition, the lack of hygiene and the absence of a proper health care. Vaccinations were not known yet and even the origins of many diseases were still unexplored.
The most serious diseases of the last three centuries
One of the most serious diseases during the last centuries were the smallpox. Smallpox are caused by an aggressive virus. Experts estimate that until the end of the 18th century 400.000 people were killed by this disease every year. Even in the 20th century the smallpox were responsible for up to 500 cases of death. The virus attacks the skin cells and causes pimples; infected persons get fever and chills. In very serious cases the sick people get pneumonia or lose their hearing ability. If infected people had a weak immune system they often had no chance to survive. Another serious illness in past centuries was tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an infection that attacks human organs, especially the lungs. Symptoms are loss of weight, fever, appetite loss and a strong cough. Mineworkers who inhaled a lot of toxic dust were often affected by tuberculosis. Until antibiotics were developed at the beginning of the 20th century a lot of people died as a result of tuberculosis.
The progress of medicine from the 18th century until today
In the 18th century there were particularly some progresses in surgery. In spite of this, many hospitals in Europe were founded. At the end of the century poor people could get medicine for free at so called dispensaries. The Scottish surgeon James Lind was the first person who discovered that eating fresh fruits could prevent scurvy, a serious vitamin c deficiency. In 1816 the stethoscope was invented and the doctor John Snow found out that the cholera was caused by infested water. 1885 a boy who had been bitten by a dog who had rabies was successfully vaccinated. In the 20th century the first blood transfusion was made and many drugs were developed. In 1928 penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming but it was not widely spread until the outburst of World War II. The invention of antibiotic can be called one of the most important achievements of humanity.
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