Tuesday, February 03, 2015

English sweat

In the current BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall", Thomas Cromwell loses his wife and two daughters to a mysterious and very sudden illness.  All we see is that they all go to bed as usual, and then cannot be woken in the morning.  There is a suggestion that there were symptoms, but we don't see them.  The disease is described as "English sweating sickness", either in the programme or in something I read about it (bad note taking, can't remember my source).

What was it?   A search of PubMed for English sweating sickness brings up this very new article proposing that the guilty agent was hantavirus.  Related citations displayed include this older one from the New England Journal of Medicine, and this from Medical History.  The new one and the Medical History are free to read, the NEJM one may need a subscription.

Searching English sweating sickness with inverted commas "English sweating sickness" helps, as you then don't get things about other things, and searching for just English sweat is also useful (spotted from the Medical History reference).  There is also a MeSH term Sweating sickness/ and one for Hantavirus and another for Hantavirus infections, so plenty of other avenues for exploration.  

CDC advice suggests hantavirus infection is still a real possibility in the USA and a good reason for not having mice or rats in your house.  There is UK government advice too, which suggests it's much rarer in the UK, but is indeed a real issue elsewhere.  Finally, the Health and Safety Executive's page about zoonoses has general advice on zoonoses (infections transmitted from animals to humans) in agriculture, and a link to an information sheet.

 Have a read if this post has made you worried.

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