General Question

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

If the western explorers infections decimated the native Americans why didn't the reverse happen to the Europeans?

Asked by RedDeerGuy1 (16122points) 1 month ago

Did any contagion spread to Europeans?

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16 Answers

Yellowdog's avatar

Europeans had exposure to a lot of diseases from all over the world throughout their history of exploration and commerce. The Native Americans didn’t likely have any disease among them which Europeans hadn’t already been exposed to, and become immune

kritiper's avatar

Europeans suffered from the Plague (the Black Death) that came from fleas on rats.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Weren’t there rats in America and elsewhere around the world..of course.
Perhaps illness was not recorded by indigenous people as such..but blamed on bad omens etc
I am sure that people other than the white settlers had disease in there DNA as well?

stanleybmanly's avatar

European immune systems had been warring with the pathogens crossing back and forth across the domesticated animals and the parasites preying on them all. Europeans had hundreds of generations of adaptability to lethal diseases as they mutated in the ongoing arms race. The habit of concentrating animals of different breeds and species together in barnyards assured that the white folks arrived here with devastating cocktails of infection for which the natives had no defense—Everything from athletes foot through the common cold.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Inspired_2write “Weren’t there rats in America and elsewhere around the world..of course.”

Yes, but the Black Plague wasn’t a feature of the rats themselves, but rather they were simply the means by which it was carried into Europe from central Asia. The Plague itself was caused by a particular bacteria which the people of the Americas, being isolated from Eurasia, never had contact with.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I remember reading somewhere that the great gift disease from the new world to Europe was apparently syphlis.

stanleybmanly's avatar

A few years back there was an article in the Atlantic concerning the pandemics initiated by the first Portuguese and Spanish explorers in the 15th-16 the century. The carnage was apparently horrific, and so much so that it effectively depopulated this continent to the wilderness the waves of immigrants found here in the 17th century.

Darth_Algar's avatar

There does, however, appear to have been some kind of significant depopulation event in America at least a century or so before Columbus. As evidenced by the more-or-less complete abandonment of major Mound Builder settlements like Cahokia and Kincaid.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I read about that one too. And the speculation is that one also may have resulted from barnyard hybrids crossing from pigs to ducks to migrating birds.

JLeslie's avatar

Europeans died from measles, flu, and small pox too. They brought more diseases than that. As mentioned above the plague killed millions in Europe, and I think they brought some of that to the Americas also. Many of the childhood diseases are worse in adulthood, and the Europeans tended to get the diseases like measles at younger ages. If they lived (most people live through measles, but a percentage do die) then they were immune. Measles doesn’t have a lot of variations like the flu. Sometimes one flu you live through can help give partial immunity to another, so that helped with the flu.

ragingloli's avatar

Well, for one, the europeans intentionally infected the natives with contaminated blankets.

LostInParadise's avatar

There is malaria in Central and South America. It was one of the difficulties that had to be dealt with when building the Panama Canal.

kritiper's avatar

@Inspired_2write Maybe. But the fleas that carried the disease couldn’t get here until the explorers came on ships.

LostInParadise's avatar

This is a good question, so I did a Web search and found this explanation Europeans developed immunity from diseases in livestock. They also developed immunity from living in higher concentrations that allowed diseases to spread easily and also from coming in contact with larger portions of the world.

Correction to my previous post – Malaria originated in Africa and was brought to the New World through the slave trade.

Demosthenes's avatar

It seems to be the case that there were simply far more diseases endemic to Eurasia and Africa than the New World. As Stanley notes, syphilis may be one that was endemic to the Americas and brought back to Europe, but for the most part, these pathogens developed in and came from the Old World.

Zissou's avatar

If you’re interested in this topic, you might like Guns, Germs, and Steel, the bestseller by Jared Diamond. It’s well written and aimed at a lay audience. Your local library probably has it.

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