Pathology

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Entry Category: Pathology

AIDS

By 2007, a cumulative 4,119 Arkansans had been diagnosed with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), with 196 of those cases being newly diagnosed in that year. Of all cases diagnosed in Arkansas, more than eighty percent were among men, fifty-seven percent were among whites, and forty percent were among African Americans. However, among cases newly diagnosed in 2007, the majority (fifty-five percent) were among African Americans, with only thirty-seven percent of new cases being among whites. This trend follows national rates of proportionally more cases being diagnosed among African Americans and other minorities. Of those 4,119 diagnosed with AIDS, more than 2,000 were people living with AIDS as of the end of …

Cestodes

aka: Tapeworms
Cestodes (tapeworms) include flatworms belonging to the phylum Platyhelminthes, class Cestoidea, subclasses Cestodaria (two orders) and Eucestoda (sixteen orders), and about fifty-nine families. The subclass Cestodaria includes monozoic (unsegmented) tapeworms containing only a single set of male and female reproductive organs; these are parasitic in the intestinal tract and body cavity of fishes and turtles. The subclass Eucestoda is made up of polyzoic (segmented) or monozoic cestodes of varying structure and parasitic in the intestines of vertebrates. To date, there are more than 5,000 described species that, as endoparasites, infect all vertebrate classes. The classification of tapeworms remains ambiguous using classical morphological studies alone, and, although some studies have been done recently using molecular tools, further attention is needed to …

Cholera

Cholera, a deadly, infectious gastrointestinal disease that usually spreads through contaminated water, is an acute infection of the small intestine caused by the toxin released by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria, leading to severe diarrhea and dehydration. Left untreated, cholera can be fatal in a matter of hours. The first cholera pandemic of 1817–1823 spread from India to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Russia, and Europe, especially England. Cholera was prevalent in the 1800s in America beginning in New York City. Due to increased traveling, the use of steamboats, and more navigable waterways, cholera made its way to the Mississippi Delta region. In October 1832, cholera reached Arkansas. An infected passenger boarded the steamboat Volant, captained by Charles Kelley. …

Coccidia

aka: Apicomplexa
Coccidians are microorganisms belonging to the phylum Apicomplexa and suborder Eimeriorina, which includes eight to thirteen families, about 39 genera, and well over 2,000 species. These protists are intracellular (meaning they function inside the cell) parasites of medical and veterinary importance, including those in the genera Caryospora, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Eimeria, Isospora, Sarcocystis, and Toxoplasma. Most are considered intestinal parasites that infect both invertebrates as well those animals in all vertebrate classes. These parasites cannot complete their life cycle without exploiting a host. Coccidiosis is a general term for the disease they can cause, and it is recognized as a major health concern in wild animal populations, domestic animals, and zoo animals. However, some infections appear not to cause any pathology …

Flu Epidemic of 1918

aka: Influenza Epidemic of 1918
A deadly influenza outbreak began in 1918 and spread around the world, killing more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history. In Arkansas, the flu killed about 7,000 people, several times more than the state lost during World War I. This flu’s history remains significant today as world health officials seek to prevent an outbreak of a similar influenza epidemic mutated from swine or “bird flu” from poultry. In the fourteenth century, Italian doctors noted a mysterious illness that often turned into an epidemic. They called it the influentia in medieval Latin, believing it was caused by an adverse influence of the stars or alignment of the planets. By the eighteenth century, it was called influenza di …

Hookworm Eradication

Hookworm disease was a significant public health issue in Arkansas until the movement to eradicate hookworms in the early twentieth century. With official estimates claiming that up to twenty percent of the entire population of the state suffered from hookworm infestation, this parasite was sufficiently widespread to affect the economy as well as the health of Arkansas. Its virtual eradication was the result of a public health and education campaign on the part of the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission between 1910 and 1914. The hookworm is an intestinal parasite that grows and reproduces in the intestines of its hosts. When infected people deposit feces containing hookworm eggs in warm, moist, shaded soil, the eggs hatch and develop into larvae. Within five …

Human Dissection Monument

The first human dissection performed in Arkansas is commemorated by an obelisk located at the edge of MacArthur Park in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1927, the Arkansas Medical Society unveiled the marker, whose inscription states that the dissection was held on that spot in November 1874. To clarify: the monument honors the state’s first such legal event, and the unveiling took place on May 13, despite the marker being dated May 12. Following appeals by doctors, in April 1873 the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 45 authorizing “dissection in certain cases for the advancement of science.” This paved the way for the establishment of a medical school, as the new law gave both doctors and medical students the right …

Malaria

Malaria is a serious infectious disease caused by a single-celled parasite known as a plasmodium, which is generally spread through mosquito bites. This disease caused incalculable suffering for thousands of Arkansans and other Southerners through the early twentieth century. Symptoms of malaria include high fever, chills, profuse sweating, malaise, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can appear within a week of initial infection but can vary with the different types of parasites. Complications can include anemia, liver failure, kidney failure, and breathing problems. Patients can suffer relapses years after the initial infection. If untreated, malaria can cause death. Along with pellagra and hookworm, malaria was one of three diseases whose symptoms contributed to the false stereotype of Southerners as …

Pellagra

Pellagra is a form of malnutrition caused by a severe deficiency of niacin (also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3) in the diet. The disease affected thousands of Arkansans and other Southerners in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Symptoms of pellagra can include lack of energy, outbreaks of red splotches on the skin, diarrhea, and—in extreme cases—depression, dementia, and even death. Pellagra is not contagious, and the condition can be reversed. The lethargic appearance of pellagra victims was also a symptom of two other diseases widely found in the South at the time, hookworm and malaria. These three contributed to the false stereotype of Southerners at this time as lazy. Pellagra was first recognized as a disease in 1762 …

Polio

The poliovirus terrorized the United States for many years, and Arkansas was no exception. Infection with the virus either went unnoticed or caused poliomyelitis, commonly called polio, which resulted in paralysis that sometimes ended in death but more often left its victims permanently handicapped. As the disease often affected children, it was also called infantile paralysis. While the large urban centers of the country dealt with polio epidemics early in the twentieth century, Arkansas had only a few intermittent cases. The Arkansas Gazette, however, reported frequently on the disease, keeping its readers informed of efforts to combat, cure, and curtail its devastating effects in other areas. After the first significant numbers were reported in the state, Arkansans reacted to the …

Rabies

 Rabies, a viral disease that attacks the body’s central nervous system, causes convulsions, hallucinations, and an inability to swallow liquid—hence its earlier name, hydrophobia, or “fear of water.” Until Frenchman Louis Pasteur’s 1885 creation of a vaccine that successfully treated rabies in humans, the bite from a rabid animal almost always resulted in a death excruciating to endure and horrifying to witness. Pasteur’s discovery was publicized in Arkansas, but it would be almost thirty years before the state had a treatment center using his methods, though it lasted only briefly. Two months after Pasteur’s breakthrough, four New Jersey children who had been bitten by a rabid dog traveled to France and were cured using the vaccine. News of these boys’ …

Smallpox

Smallpox is an infectious disease characterized by the formation of a rash and blisters across the face and extremities. With an overall mortality rate of approximately thirty-five percent, it was one of the most feared diseases in the world before coordinated vaccination efforts resulted in the disease being eradicated in 1979. In Arkansas, smallpox greatly affected Native Americans and played a role in the creation of later public health initiatives. Smallpox was first introduced into North America by European explorers, who brought to the New World any number of diseases to which Native Americans had not previously been exposed. Some historians estimate that perhaps ninety percent of the indigenous population of the Americas may have been killed by diseases brought …

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (also known as consumption) is a contagious, potentially fatal bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs. It is caused by the tubercle bacillus (Mycobacterium tuberculosis), which was discovered by Robert Koch in 1882. By 1900, the disease was the second-leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by pneumonia. More than eighty percent of the U.S. population had been infected with the disease, although most people showed no symptoms. By the time a person showed symptoms, the disease was usually well advanced and had been spread to many others. The mortality rate for those with active infections was around eighty percent. In Arkansas, tuberculosis once affected one in sixty people and accounted for one out of every …

Typhoid

Typhoid is among the earliest diseases reported in Arkansas and was a significant public health problem up through the early twentieth century. Though it became less common in the modern era, typhoid had a significant impact upon state health in times and places where poor sanitation was the norm. Typhoid, like cholera, is transmitted through the ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected individual; the spread of the disease is therefore greatly linked with a lack of proper sanitation. Victims experience high fevers, sweating, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and diarrhea. In most cases, the disease is not fatal, though fevers can last well over a month. Some individuals may become asymptomatic …

Worms [Medical Condition], Traditional Remedies

aka: Intestinal Parasites
Well into the twentieth century, it was believed that all children had parasitic worms and that parents needed to treat this condition with patent or homemade medicines. These concoctions rid children of such intestinal parasites as roundworms (Ascariasis), threadworms (Trichuris), and tapeworms (Taenia solium), some of which also went by the colloquial names of pinworms and seatworms. Worm infestations, it was believed, could cause death. This is borne out by the census’s four mortality schedules (1850–1880). In these, “worms” and “worm fever” were listed as the causes of some children’s deaths, the majority occurring during the warm months of July through October. Some of these children may have died from the debilitating effects of worms or by being overdosed with …

Yellow Fever

In 1878 and 1879, Southern cities such as Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana, were devastated by epidemics of yellow fever. Citizens of Arkansas were also affected by the disease, leading to controversial quarantine measures that prohibited travel in parts of the state and also restricted the transportation of materials such as recently harvested cotton. The creation of the Arkansas State Board of Health resulted from successful efforts to protect Arkansans from the 1879 yellow fever epidemic. Yellow Fever (colloquially called “Yellow Jack”) is a potentially fatal virus that mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) transmit to their human hosts through their bite. It attacks the body’s organs, mainly the liver, which causes jaundice, a yellowing of the patient’s skin and whites of …