It’s 1861 in a battlefield ridden of blood and gunshots. Slaves are hiding from everyone because they are afraid. Disease is spreading like wildfire, such as dysentery. Slaves have had many diseases in the past that are very rare to get today in the United States. Dysentery is an example of this. Chances were very high to get it if you were a slave in 1849 on a tobacco plantation in Georgia. Today, chances are slim to none to get dysentery in the US. Even if you do get it, it’s easily treatable. But, if you had dysentery in 1856, you would most likely die. What is dysentery? Dysentery is a disease that is caused by poor hygiene and contaminated water. It will give you infectious diarrhea, and it will stay like that for a week or more. A week of fevers and trips to the bathroom every now and then. If you lived in 2012.
In the 1840’s, a slave would just have to suffer through the disease and then die. Dysentery can be caused by contaminated water, which a lot of slaves had to drink. A lot of other slaves who didn’t get the disease from the water could also get it from poor hygiene, which almost all slaves didn’t have good hygiene, and it spreading from slave to slave, which would happen because a lot of slaves were confined to one cabin. Dysentery was a very common disease to get, but it happened because slaves were treated very badly.
Another disease that affected a lot of slaves was cholera. This disease was similar to dysentery, but it doesn’t have as many symptoms as dysentery had. Cholera can be caused by contaminated water that has the Vibrio cholerae bacteria. It was spread easily because of the poor sanitation and poor hygiene that slaves had on the plantations. Cholera can be easily treatable, that is, if you go to the hospital right away. Most slaves would die because they couldn’t get medical treatment right away. Cholera’s main symptoms are watery diarrhea and vomiting, so disease could spread like wildfire.
The 1800’s weren’t a fun time for Africans as you can tell. Most diseases would kill a slave, and they would be spread very easily too. Another disease that spread easily was diphtheria, an infection in the throat and sinuses. Most people that get it will get a sore throat and a fever. Others who get it might have a bad cough. Slaves who got this would most likely get a swollen neck, which would make it hard to breath.
Diphtheria would also cause slaves to bleed easily because this disease harshly lowers the level of platelets in them. Since they could bleed very easily, slaves could also get blood diseases from contact of blood. What made it hard to breath was a gray matter stuck in their throat, which didn’t come off easily. Slaves who got this disease would most likely die due to the blood loss and breathing difficulty.
Whooping Cough (pertussis) is a disease that affects the lungs of the body. It can be spread easily, so slaves could get it easily. It seems like all diseases slaves get are transferred very easily, but that’s because slaves were confined together, so most diseases would be diseases that would be spread easily. Pertussis can make you have coughing fits until your lungs are out of air. Then when you would breath in, you would make a “whoop” sound. That’s why it’s called the whooping cough. This disease would also cause fevers and vomiting from coughing so much.
A disease that is completely gone for good is smallpox, a disease that is like the chickenpox but more deadly. Smallpox was spread easily because slaves were confined together from the ships to the plantations, so this disease was very common. Just like the chickenpox, this disease gives you rashes and bumps. Smallpox is more deadly though because it also causes vomiting, headaches, and fevers. Slaves had no treatment possible, so when slaves got sick with smallpox, they had a small chance of living. Smallpox officially got completely wiped out in 1970, so people today probably don’t know what it was like to get smallpox, like me. I would guess it would drain your energy very easily if you got smallpox, yet you would still be forced to work out in the fields.
A disease that affected most slaves on the plantations was influenza, or the flu, and it had a lower death risk than most of these diseases, but it was still high. The flu is still here today affecting millions of people every year. It has many symptoms, most include dehydration, chills, muscle cramps, and more. It can cause death today, but it’s not very likely. If you were a slave and got it, you would not be looking very good at living another 10 years. It would spread easily probably because of other slaves coughing and sneezing, which makes it easy to spread to other slaves.
Another related disease to this is the cold, which only causes coughing and a stuffy nose. The common cold was the least likely to cause death, but it was the most probable disease you would get if you were a slave. It has a lot of symptoms, but not as much as the flu. It mainly causes coughing and a runny nose, which can be very easily spreadable if not careful. Slaves would most likely get this all the time unless they knew how to avoid it, which was not very likely.
The cold is very easily treatable today, and it lasts only a couple days. If you were a slave and got it, it would probably go away in weeks if you were lucky. It was better than getting the flu though, not saying that getting the cold was a good thing.
Diseases that affected slaves back in the 1800’s were very deadly then, but now the diseases they would get are either gone, very treatable, or go away in days instead of weeks or months back then. Today we are very lucky that we don’t have to deal with bad disease and slavery today, and I hope no one here ever has to experience both of those things.