Page 178 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 this disease. When comparing the VOC deathrate with that of the Danish, French and Swedish East Indiamen in as far as known, their mortality appears higher.40 Further research with subsequent comparisons between the companies and their voyages to Asia and Africa - those to and from America are less useful material for comparison - would substantiate this point.
About the potentially fatal diseases occurring on board quite a lot is known however, though their precise nature and frequency will probably never be established. The condi- tions on board as already described made the appearance of disease to be expected. Among the non-infectious diseases rarely absent throughout the two centuries were scurvy, beri-beri and malaria. Respiratory conditions were infectious via saliva, coughing and sneezing. Stomach and bowel diseases could be caused by contaminated food, but were contageous as well via dirt and particularly faeces. A n ever recurring sickness especially on the V O C s longer voyages was scurvy, an affliction easily recognizable from the patient's symptoms of 'stiff limbs, tight chest, a stinking and short breath'.4 1 It might appear shortly after departure among any who had embarked in an undernourished condition, becoming more general when the long period on an unbalanced diet made the lack of the vital vitamin C apparent because fresh vegetables and fruit were missing. While at the time nothing was known about the cause of beri-beri - lack of vitamin B l in a too exclusive rice diet -, or of malaria - carried by the malaria mosquito -, it was known right enough that scurvy could be beaten by eating fresh vegetables and fruit. Mention has already been made of attempts to keep scurvy at bay by sending along less perishable fruits or fruit extracts. When calling at ports en route it was this kind of food that was laid in, such as oranges and lemons, and when regulation stops were made at the Cape Verde Islands and the Cape, care was taken to load fresh vegetables and fruit. Beri-beri must have occurred particularly on the homeward voyage due to the monotonous rice diet in Asia and the serving of rice on board. Malaria could have been carried in its milder form on the outward voyage by those embarking in the Republic - in those days this disease was endemic especially in the polder areas, so rich in water and lakes, of Holland and the islands of Zeeland. But the tropical malaria, often more violent and persistent, was of course carried on board in Asia. The common cold virus or lung conditions were given free rein by extreme climatic changes - sudden cold or prolonged rain when sailing in European waters, daytime heat and clammy cold at night in the tropics. Stomach and bowel conditions were hard to distinguish from dysentery, also endemic in Europe, but known particularly in its tropical form of rode loop (red diarrhoea), named after the violent and very dehydrating blood diarrhoea accompanying this disease.
Much more irregularly, but sometimes violently epidemic, the much feared typhus occurred on board the VOC ships. Not until the second half of the seventeenth century was this disease named and known as such, though it probably had occurred earlier. The typhus bacterium was carried via the faeces and bite of the body louse, but this fact was not known at the time and therefore did not lead to the simple hygiene of frequent washing of body and garments and cleaning of sleeping quarters and bedding. The typhus patient's suffering, usually preceding death, could be prolonged and terrible: at first the patient suffered from listlessness and cold shivers, later from bilious vomiting and increasingly severe fits, while all these symptoms could be accompanied by small black marks on the skin. A typhus epidemic was unpredictable in its progress: it was not heard of for many
40 Cf. Göbel, 'Sygdom of d0d'; Dermigny, La Chine, and Konincx, Swedish East-India Company. 41 Schilder, De ontdekkingsreis, 245.

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