The English prisoners lost their lives to this

four postulates of the Germ Theory of Disease, which states that diseases are
caused by microorganisms, that had been laid down by Robert Koch in the late 19th
century were a remarkable advancement in the field of Microbiology, and
provided an understanding of the cause, and possible cure of various diseases.

by various synonyms such as camp fever, jail fever, famine fever, putrid fever,
louse-borne typhus, etc., the infamous bacterial disease typhus has been
responsible for various epidemics in history. As the names suggest, these
epidemics tend to follow conditions when social organisation is disrupted, and
public health and personal hygiene is compromised. Epidemic typhus is caused by
the bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii, and transmitted by Pediculus
humanus humanus, the body louse, as discovered by Charles Nicolle in 1909.

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typhus is a life-threatening, acute exanthematic feverish disease that is
primarily characterised by the abrupt onset of fever with painful myalgia, a
severe headache, malaise and a rash. Non-specific symptoms sometimes include a
cough, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhoea. The rash, which is a
characteristic of typhus fever, appears on the abdomen a few days after the
onset of the symptoms, and radiates centrifugally to the extremities. Gangrene
and necrosis of the extremities, leading to the need for amputation, may also
be observed. The term typhus comes from
the Greek word “tuphos”, meaning “smoke” or “stupor”, evoking the delirious
state that infected individuals may develop. Neurologic symptoms include
confusion and drowsiness. Coma, seizures and focal neurologic signs may develop
in a minority of patients.


first written recordings of typhus came in 1489 during the Spanish army’s siege
of Granada. An epidemic of louse-borne typhus had struck the Spanish army, and
within a month had killed 17,000 of the original 25,000 soldiers. Of the total
war causalities, only 3,000 Spaniards had died in actual combat. The remnants
of the Spanish army fled, and in so doing, introduced typhus to many other
parts of Europe.  In 1546, Girolamo Fracastoro, a Florentine physician,
described the pestilential disease in his famous treatise on viruses and
contagion, De Contagione et Contagiosis Morbis. In 1759 authorities
estimated nearly 25% of English prisoners lost their lives to this disease,
thus earning the name gaol or jail fever. It had also afflicted the soldiers of
Napoleon’s Grand Army in Vilnius in 1812 after their retirement from Russia. It
is estimated that fewer than 100,000 French soldiers lost their lives to
Russian soldiers, while as many as 300,000 French soldiers perished from