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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

module:Geography of health

Patterns of disease

page:Transport changes and the spread of disease


With the advent of steam ships, journey times shrank and measles was spread to islands that had never had contact with the disease. This famous streamer, the Mauritania, held 560 first class, 475 second class, and 1300 third class passengers and 812 crew. picture zoom © Science Museum/Science and Society Picture Library

If the Bartlett and Hamer Sopel models are applied to the pattern of measles epidemics in the islands of the South-West Pacific, an interesting picture emerges. Before Europeans arrived, the people in these islands had no contact with measles. By the late nineteenth century, Europeans were arriving by sailing ship, but since the journey time was several weeks, they could not carry measles with them.


Air travel has increased the speed of the spread of disease and increased the threat of epidemics of global proportions. picture zoom © Cathay Pacific Airways Limited

With the coming of steamships and, later, air travel, the journey time shrank from months to days to hours. Measles became endemic. As there was no resistance whatsoever to the virus, the entire population was susceptible. At first, there were often fatal epidemics.

Once a vaccination programme to reduce the number of susceptibles had been introduced in the 1980s, the impact of measles was greatly reduced.


Measles was once unheard of in islands of the South West Pacific. picture zoom © Wellcome Library, London



Transport changes

Resource Descriptions

With the advent of steam ships, journey times shrank and measles was spread to islands that had never had contact with the disease. This famous streamer, the Mauritania, held 560 first class, 475 second class, and 1300 third class passengers and 812 crew.
Air travel has increased the speed of the spread of disease and increased the threat of epidemics of global proportions.
Measles was once unheard of in islands of the South West Pacific.
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