Lessons learned — and forgotten — from the horrific epidemics of the U.S. Civil War, Jonathan S. Jones April 18, 2021 STAT, April 18, 2021
As the U.S. approaches 600,000 deaths from Covid-19, it is hard to fathom that this calamity pales in comparison to America’s worst outbreak of epidemic diseases during and just after the Civil War.
From smallpox and measles to dysentery and typhoid, the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, triggered an explosion of deadly epidemics on a scale never seen in the U.S., before or since. A million sick soldiers, newly emancipated ex-slaves, families caught in the crossfire, and hungry refugees died during the war, about 3% of the U.S. population. Two-thirds of these deaths were from disease. For comparison, it would take nearly 10 million Americans deaths from Covid-19 to reach the Civil War’s death toll.
As a medical historian, I’ve spent countless hours poring through vintage medical journals, public health reports, and eyewitness accounts of the health nightmare that was the Civil War. These sources are full of sobering parallels between that war and Covid-19, as well as the valuable but essentially forgotten lessons it taught the country about public health.
Complete text is found at STAT
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