The Sweating Sickness epidemic killed 15,000 people and then vanished from history

Anita Durairaj

It was called the English Sweating Sickness or the Sweating Disease and it was a disease that was primarily confined to England and a few parts of Europe during the Tudor reign.

The symptoms of the Sweating Disease were vomiting, body aches, and pains as well as extreme chills and fevers. Moreover, it became known as the "Sweating Disease" because patients would experience extreme sweating before succumbing to death.

The Sweating Disease became a prevalent epidemic in the England of the late 1400s up to 1551. In fact, the disease appeared at five different times during that period in the years 1485, 1508, 1517, 1528, and 1551.

Historians believe that Henry Tudor and his army may have brought the disease from across the Channel to England when he decided to seize the English throne in 1485.

The disease affected the rich and the famous and may have been responsible for the deaths of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Thomas Cromwell's wife (Cromwell was chief minister to King Henry VIII). Cromwell himself is thought to have become sick from the disease at least three times but he made a recovery each time.

When the epidemic struck, mortality rates were high at 30% to 50% but the outbreaks would only last for one to two weeks. The disease is reported to have killed more than 15,000 people within six weeks. The true number of deaths remains vague and many more could have died as the epidemic struck England at least five different times.

The Sweating Disease mysteriously disappeared by the mid-1500s.

The Sweating Disease is considered to be a medical mystery. Scientists believe that the cause of the epidemic could have been a hantavirus infection, anthrax, a mosquito-borne viral disease, or even relapsing fever.

To date, the origin and nature of the disease remain a question mark.

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