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Mumps In The Columbian Exchange Essay

875 words - 4 pages

The Columbian Exchange was a trade network that was indisputably a major event in world history due to the exchange of ideas, crops, animals, and diseases between the Old World and the New World, making the world “smaller”; it is undeniable that had the Columbian Exchange not happened, all of our lives today would be drastically different. During 1450 to 1750 – the time period of the Columbian Exchange – the mumps, a virus that was originally discovered in Europe, was transferred from the Old World to the New; in both hemispheres, diseases were transmitted unknowingly until people started noticing the correlations between those who got sick and what might have caused them to contract it, which led to diseases being used as weapons in biological warfare, causing the indigenous peoples to die off and allowing the Europeans economic prosperity.
The mumps were used in biological warfare in order to kill off the natives – this was effective due to the fact that the indigenous people had never encountered this disease before and it resulted in the native population dropping by about 90%. The mumps is a common disease that is easily spread but has long since lost its fatal effect on humankind. Due to the easiness of spreading and contracting this disease, it traveled easily from the Old to the New World on the backs of explorers, conquistadors, colonists, and merchants. This disease wasn’t a very big issue for Europeans and Africans because most had developed an immunity to it – it was discovered in Ancient Greece by Hippocrates (American Academy of Pediatrics) – but for the natives in the Americas, it was their first time being exposed to such a disease. The Europeans noticed this at some point and started giving disease to the Natives purposefully – like giving small pox infected blankets disguised as a gift, but which held the key to that society’s demise. The Native Americans who believed that the European diseases were afflictions sent down by their gods as punishment and coped by either drinking alcohol or committing suicide (Lippert and Spignesi 142-144). While the Native Americans had issues dealing with these illnesses, the Europeans were struggling with diseases as well – albeit, in a different form. At this point in time, diseases were a very difficult issue for those in the Old World – even though they were much more scientifically advanced than those in the New; doctors were incapable of providing proper cures and treatments for the symptoms of the diseases – like using leeches to suck out the “bad blood,” which really just led to too much blood loss...

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