A notable interaction between European settlers and indigenous peoples throughout history is spreading diseases native people have no immunity to. Why was the spread of indigenous diseases to European settlers much less widespread/well known?

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A notable interaction between European settlers and indigenous peoples throughout history is spreading diseases native people have no immunity to. Why was the spread of indigenous diseases to European settlers much less widespread/well known?

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Pretty much all of the deadliest pathogens we come into contact with come from animal reservoirs and made the jump to humans. this kind of transition from animal to human is very rare and unlikely. In Afro-Eurasia there were lots of domesticated animals which spent a lot of time close to humans, giving greater chances of transmission to humans. The Americas didn’t have large scale animal agriculture and thus had fewer deadly diseases spread from animals (and thus fewer to transmit to the European population they came into contact with).

Most native societies had much higher hygiene standards (generally cleaner) than European settlers. Also most native societies were sheltered from other people, unlike European settlers who had exposure from Africa and Asia.

So most native societies were not as capable to withstand all the new bugs the Europeans brought with them.

That being Syphilis is a purely native American disease that the European settlers were not resistant to. Though it was not nearly as deadly or contagious as the diseases the European settlers brought with them.

Most of the more significant diseases of that era are due to domesticated animals shitting in the water used for human populations. Native Americans broadly didn’t rely on domestication to the same degree as people in the Old World, and as a result they didn’t generate much in the way of diseases to infect the Old Worlder’s with.

The disease of note, though, is Smallpox, which is viral and spread by rodents as opposed to domesticated animals, and which broadly only seems to have existed in the Old World prior to European contact with the Americas. Smallpox hadn’t really previously existed, and as a result the Natives had absolutely no resistance to it, hence why Smallpox alone obliterated most of the Amerindian populations. There just wasn’t a comparable New World disease for the Old World population to catch.

A handful of sailors could introduce disease and kill thousands of indigenous people, but any illness passed the other way likely would have resulted in illness and death before departing to return to Europe or death and disposal at sea before returning to Europe. There were absolutely early settlements that were wiped out by illness but again, it’s a handful of people undertaking a knowingly risky endeavor vs large populations just minding their business suddenly being wiped out.

Most native peoples didn’t have large population centres filled with domesticated animals and human shit in water supplies.

Also, not directly related to the question, but I’m not aware of any cases of indigenous peoples *intentionally* spreading disease to European colonisers. But, when the British arrived to colonise Australia, they brought with them several vials of small pox pathogens. While we do not technically know that these vials were used to spread small pox to the indigenous Australians, we do know that the vials went missing and European diseases killed up to 90% of the indigenous population….

Indigenous populations didn’t generally have many diseases to infect settlers with, because the americas had very little in terms of domesticable animals; many of the diseases that cause things like plague are zoonotic, that is, they are transmitted from animals to humans.

In Europe, people were in contact with animals *far* more than people in the Americas, which both resulted in smaller cities (and thus, lower population density, making it harder to spread disease) and less contact with animals, leading to less zoonotic diseases.

Therefore, the Europeans weren’t infect with American plagues because there simply *weren’t* any to speak of.

Proximity to animals and close cohabitation plus maritime expansion that exposed Europeans to a more diverse group of pathogens over time allowed for European immune system to become more resilient to new foreign invaders. ( no pun Intended) But that’s not to say Europeans didnt suffer from new diseases during their colonial expansion years. Yellow fever and malaria made short endings to many long trips to africa and americas. The ships were filled with men and gear when they sailed out but sailing back into port the ships were filled with plundered riches and a skeleton crew of those few who survived the journey.