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Volume 16, Number 2—February 2010
Historical Review

New Hypothesis for Cause of Epidemic among Native Americans, New England, 1616–1619

John S. MarrComments to Author  and John T. Cathey
Author affiliations: Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, Virginia, USA (J.S. Marr); King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (J.T. Cathey)

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Table 1

Summary of published interpretations suggesting or discounting possible causes of an epidemic among Native Americans, New England, 1616–1619*

Cause Suggested Discounted
Yellow fever Webster (2) Cook (1), Williams (3), Carter (4), Bratton (6)
Plague Williams (3) Carter (4), Hoornbeek (5), Bratton (6), Crosby (9)
Influenza Carter (4)
Smallpox Bratton (6), Holmes (7) Cook (1), Webster (2), Williams (3), Hoornbeek (5)
Chickenpox Hoornbeek (5), Cronon (10) Bratton (6)
Typhus Lescarbot (11) Williams (3), Bratton (6)
HBV/HDV Speiss and Speiss (8)
Leptosopirosis This study

*HBV, hepatitis B virus; HDV, hepatitis D virus.

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  2. Webster  N. A brief history of epidemic and pestilential diseases. Hartford (CT): Hudson and Goodwin; 1799.
  3. Williams  H. The epidemic of the Indians of New England, 1616–1620, with remarks on Native American infections. Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin. 1909;20:3409.
  4. Carter  H. Yellow fever: an epidemiological and historical study of its place of origin. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins; 1931.
  5. Hoornbeek  B. An investigation into the cause or causes of the epidemic which decimated the Indian population of New England 1616–1619. The New Hampshire Archeologist. 1976–1977;19:3546.
  6. Bratton  TL. The identity of the New England Indian epidemic of 1616–19. Bull Hist Med. 1988;62:35183.PubMed
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Page updated: December 10, 2010
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The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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