Remains of Apocalyptic Plague Unearthed in Egypt

Kahani

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Megalodon said:
A global pandemic ala 1918 is highly unlikely in the modern age.
Not really. Despite all our advances in medicine, there's still pretty much nothing we can do about most viral infections, and even diseases we can treat and/or vaccinate still kill millions every year. A new disease, or simply an old one that has been out of circulation such as smallpox or even TB, that most people have no natural resistance to absolutely could cause serious problems. Throw in the fact that population density has never been higher and travel has never been easier, and if anything a pandemic is much more likely now than ever before.

Smallpox in particular is of note, since that's almost certainly what both the Plague of Cyprian and the preceding Antonine Plague around a century earlier were. It killed a few hundred million people in the 20th century, and was still killing millions per year in the '60s soon before it was entirely eradicated. There is still no cure, there are no vaccine stockpiles, and there will be very little immunity since vaccination is no longer carried out and has not been for decades and immunity doesn't last for decades in those who have been vaccinated. If it got into the wild again, there would be absolutely nothing to stop it being just as bad as before. There are currently similar concerns about TB, where eradication has essentially failed and resistant strains which again have no cure are currently spreading. Antibiotic resistance is such a big concern precisely because it means our medical advances end up meaning absolutely nothing. Treating someone with resistant TB means making them comfortable and hoping they don't die.

Mr.Mattress said:
Woah woah woah, a Plague that literally killed 5,000 people a day
Almost certainly not. The population of Rome was only around a million at that time, and the plague lasted for 20 years or more by which time the population had declined to around 500,000 (not just due to the plague). There's simply no way such a high death rate could have existed for more than a day or two. That's the maximum possible peak of deaths, not a consistent sustained rate.

Second of all, do you really want to find something like this? Who knows how long this disease could be alive for on non-living things!
As noted above, it was almost certainly smallpox. Infection requires close contact with an infected person, the virus doesn't survive outside the body for very long. 2000 year old skulls are not an issue.
 

lee1287

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Well this is fun lunch time reading!

I Quite enjoyed WWZ, Mainly because it was a 'zombie' movie with more tense moments than 'pow pow pow' moments. People are hard to please!
 

Rhykker

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Feb 28, 2010
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Ready for a plague... nope.. I mean look at how well we handled the HIV epidemic.

Our only saving grace is that the super plagues like ebola and what not tend to cripple and kill their victims too quickly. I.e the victims are laid up before they have the chance to spread it to others.

A true super plague would need to have a fairly long incubation period. Say about a month, during which the carrier shows no symptoms but still remains infectious. Heck even a 2 week window would spell disaster.
 

lacktheknack

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Jan 19, 2009
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Thyunda said:
lacktheknack said:
OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Not if I know archaeologists and historians. I'm doing a degree in history, and one of my modules was on the Black Death. My reaction when I saw this post wasn't dread, or sympathy, or any of that, it was sheer excitement at learning about this. Plagues are fascinating, and however morbid it might seem, I think any academic around this discovery may have wet themselves a little bit at this find.
Oh, I'm sure they did, but can you imagine digging away at a layer of lime and then boom skulls everywhere?

Gives me the heebie-jeebies.
 

Thyunda

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lacktheknack said:
Thyunda said:
lacktheknack said:
OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Not if I know archaeologists and historians. I'm doing a degree in history, and one of my modules was on the Black Death. My reaction when I saw this post wasn't dread, or sympathy, or any of that, it was sheer excitement at learning about this. Plagues are fascinating, and however morbid it might seem, I think any academic around this discovery may have wet themselves a little bit at this find.
Oh, I'm sure they did, but can you imagine digging away at a layer of lime and then boom skulls everywhere?

Gives me the heebie-jeebies.
If they were geologists, yeah, but archaeologists are heartless bastards who get excited in a skullvalanche. The kind of person to burst into your bedroom cradling an ancient skeleton and bellowing "I KNEW IT! I WAS RIGHT!" and then they start swearing about some historian who they hate.
 

lacktheknack

Je suis joined jewels.
Jan 19, 2009
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Thyunda said:
lacktheknack said:
Thyunda said:
lacktheknack said:
OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Not if I know archaeologists and historians. I'm doing a degree in history, and one of my modules was on the Black Death. My reaction when I saw this post wasn't dread, or sympathy, or any of that, it was sheer excitement at learning about this. Plagues are fascinating, and however morbid it might seem, I think any academic around this discovery may have wet themselves a little bit at this find.
Oh, I'm sure they did, but can you imagine digging away at a layer of lime and then boom skulls everywhere?

Gives me the heebie-jeebies.
If they were geologists, yeah, but archaeologists are heartless bastards who get excited in a skullvalanche. The kind of person to burst into your bedroom cradling an ancient skeleton and bellowing "I KNEW IT! I WAS RIGHT!" and then they start swearing about some historian who they hate.
Christ. Remind me never to get an archaeologist as a roommate. xD
 

Rhykker

Level 16 Scallywag
Feb 28, 2010
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If they were geologists, yeah, but archaeologists are heartless bastards who get excited in a skullvalanche. The kind of person to burst into your bedroom cradling an ancient skeleton and bellowing "I KNEW IT! I WAS RIGHT!" and then they start swearing about some historian who they hate.
I smell sitcom!

OT: Always nice to know the reasons behind the fall of the roman empire, such a big thing for it's time just collapsing due to problem after problem...
 

Megalodon

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Kahani said:
Megalodon said:
A global pandemic ala 1918 is highly unlikely in the modern age.
Not really. Despite all our advances in medicine, there's still pretty much nothing we can do about most viral infections, and even diseases we can treat and/or vaccinate still kill millions every year. A new disease, or simply an old one that has been out of circulation such as smallpox or even TB, that most people have no natural resistance to absolutely could cause serious problems. Throw in the fact that population density has never been higher and travel has never been easier, and if anything a pandemic is much more likely now than ever before.
While you are right about travel and population density. You're still discounting the existence of bodies like the WHO, whose job it is to prevent such global pandemics. Such measure simply didn't exist for past pandemics. Even if a sufficiently deadly pathogen arises, countermeasure exist to limit the spread, so we probably won't see the global spread seen in historic pandemics.

Smallpox in particular is of note, since that's almost certainly what both the Plague of Cyprian and the preceding Antonine Plague around a century earlier were. It killed a few hundred million people in the 20th century, and was still killing millions per year in the '60s soon before it was entirely eradicated. There is still no cure, there are no vaccine stockpiles, and there will be very little immunity since vaccination is no longer carried out and has not been for decades and immunity doesn't last for decades in those who have been vaccinated. If it got into the wild again, there would be absolutely nothing to stop it being just as bad as before. There are currently similar concerns about TB, where eradication has essentially failed and resistant strains which again have no cure are currently spreading. Antibiotic resistance is such a big concern precisely because it means our medical advances end up meaning absolutely nothing. Treating someone with resistant TB means making them comfortable and hoping they don't die.
No it isn't really. The reason smallpox isn't vaccinated against any more is, as you said, because it is extinct in the wild. I seriously doubt that the ability to make smallpox vaccine has been lost since 1979, and there's no way the WHO would take a breach at either of their CL4 storage facilities lying down. Worrying about smallpox getting out is a waste of time, you're better off worrying about being killed by falling coconuts.

TB is a bad example as well. As it's simply not dangerous enough to create the kind of pandemic this thread is talking about. The majority of even MDR TB can be treated with a good rate of success. As a disease with a 4% fatality rate at its worst currently, TB doesn't really have the virulence clout to achieve the sort of global pandemic that we see in history.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673610621733

If you want a disease with a actual chance (again, I don't think its likely) of replicating old pandemics, stick with flu.
 

Doclector

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This is the kind of shit that happens at the start of a horror movie. If I were there, I would have soiled myself and immediately poured napalm on the remains to be sure.

As for the question of whether we're prepared, yes and no. We have protocols in place, massive organisations that monitor such diseases, but nature is deadly and unpredictable. So much so, I really don't actually like thinking about it all that much. The thought that the relative comfort of our everyday lives could in theory, in less than a year, be shattered by something so small we can't even see it with the naked eye.

Toadfish1 said:
You guys do know the CDC exists solely for the purpose of making sure something like this doesn't happen, right?
Yep, and much like the big, badass marines in aliens, even all their preparation could be made a mockery of by just one particularly vicious bug. Not saying they don't have any point to exist, of course they have all the reason in the world to exist, they've probably stopped several serious threats in the time they've been operating, and god knows how much of a contribution such organisations make to science in general through their research, but fact is, they're still only human.
 

PirateRose

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I'm still in the boat that people inappropriately/over use anti-biotics, especially with the use of anti-bacterial soap & hand gels. It's weakening our immune systems and allowing strong, resistant bacteria to get an edge. Also the fact the anti-biotics are killing the good bacteria that help your body.

Anti-biotics should only be used in hospitals and when people are seriously sick.

Otherwise, if you're a healthy person, regular old soap and water will help prevent the spread of the minor illnesses just fine. Building a strong immune system by eating right, exercising, & not over using antibacterial products will take care of the rest.

Ultimately, we've got the people who over use the antibacterial stuff combined with people at the other end of the extreme who find it too inconvenient to wash their hands ever. People who never wash their hands spread the diseases, the people with the weaken immune systems thanks to antibacterial over use strengthen the disease. The over used antibacterial people are easy targets and the stronger disease resulting from them easily passes between the people that never wash their hands, killing a large portion of them. Children and Elderly will be the easiest targets as usual.

So yeah, I think we are in store for a major pandemic that will bring our modern world to it's knees.