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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Infectious Diseases in A Dance With Dragons

Pale Mare in the siege of Meereen is pretty obviously dysentery, with bloody, explosive diarrhea that causes severe dehydration and death. Curiously, dysentery was a major cause of death in the camps during the American Civil War, another war related to slavery. At Gettysburg, it has been reported that twice as many soldiers died of infectious diseases than those died of battle wounds. Besides dysentery, typhoid and malaria were also major killers.

The greyscale took me a while to figure out. That childhood infection is less fatal, lifelong immunity, and residual scarring are based on smallpox. The description of blind, stumbling, zombie-like stone men on the Bridge of Dream is not smallpox. They have grey, hardened, cracking skin. One of the stone men shattered a leg crashing onto the Shy Maid but appeared to feel nothing and continued his attack. So then it must be based on leprosy.

Caused by two types of mycobacterium infection, leprosy is characterized by tumor growths and discolored skin patches. Peripheral nerve death over time can lead to loss of fingers and limbs and blindness.

Jon Connington was infected by greyscale and began to notice discoloration and numbness in a finger, but he intended to hide it for as long as he could. Leprosy has a long incubation period from infection to manifestation ranging from 5 to 20 years.

Leprosy is now curable with anti-mycobacterium antibiotics (but not vinegar or wine bath). 

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