Conflicts and Epidemics: the War of Gradisca (1615 - 1617)
On the Trail of Those Responsible
Keywords:Glanders, Salmonellosis, Shigellosis, Epidemic/Exanthematic Typhus
AbstractThe “war of Gradisca” (1615-1617) was fought between the Republic of Venice and the Habsburg Empire. The conflict is also known as the “Uskok war”, from the population whose acts of piracy against venetian ships sailing the Adriatic Sea represented the “casus belli.” The Uskoks were refugees coming from Balkan countries to escape the Ottoman Empire advance who had found shelter in the Kvarner Gulf under the protection of the Habsburg Empire. In the spring of 1616, an epidemic disease began to claim victims among horses and thereafter among soldiers and civil populations; in autumn another infection wave occurred. Modern reappraisals have largely interpreted those events as recurrent outbreaks of glanders, a zoonosis caused by Burkholderia mallei. We performed a reassessment of available historical documents, providing an overview of contextual and epidemiological data. Environmental conditions, modes of disease transmission and type of clinical manifestations suggest that, in addition to Burkholderia mallei, other agents - mainly including Salmonella, Shigella and Rickettsia - possibly generated multiple infectious outbreaks capable of establishing an epidemic. In the article, we also discuss issues related to infectious diseases that are of modern relevance.
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