Dormant Diseases Trapped in Ice for Centuries Are Now Waking Up

Dormant Diseases Trapped in Ice for Centuries Are Now Waking Up

Ever since the dawn of history, man and disease have lived together in a kind of perverted, twisted harmony. Man found new ways to kill disease and in return disease found new ways to kill a man. This game of cat and mouse has gone on for centuries now, and not even Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin managed to put an end to it. Every time a new, stronger antibiotic is brought out, bacteria and viruses find new ways to mutate and become immune to it, or at least surprisingly resilient.

However, the advance of medicine and countless innovations in the field of pharmaceutics have helped survive even under the toughest condition. While it’s true that we don’t have cures for every disease known to man, we still manage to keep them at bay and at least make sure that our lifespan doesn’t decrease dramatically. However, what would we do if new diseases started to emerge at an alarming pace?

Well, we’d probably die out. But that’s just a dystopian scenario that only book and movie plots centered around the apocalypse could create, right? Right? Wrong. The danger of new diseases emerging out of nowhere is more real now than ever, and it’s all of it is our fault.

Global Warming Wakes Ancient Viruses

The diseases that threaten us now are not new. In fact, they’re older than us. However, we’ve probably never been confronted with them before because they’ve been buried under layers of ice and permafrost for millennia now. However, due to a little thing called global warming that we’re not trying that hard to stop, permafrost that has been in the exact same place for thousands, maybe millions of year has now started to melt and we need to brace ourselves for what can be released from under it.


75-Year Old Anthrax

For example, in August 2016 in the Yamal Peninsula, one little boy died of anthrax and another twenty people in that particular Siberian region were hospitalized due to it. And the cause of this was that the permafrost in that region melted due to an abnormal heat wave, revealing the carcass of a deer that had died from anthrax poisoning 75 years ago. In turn, other now-living deer were infected by it, and they carried the infection out to the human population.

If that happened due to an animal that died only 75 years ago, imagine what can happen if the polar ice cap melts. Those thick layers of ice are ancient, and who knows what has been preserved inside them. Viruses and bacteria actually do very well in ice, because it’s dark and cold and it can keep them intact for an infinite amount of time. So if we keep destroying our planet and the ice cap melts, overflowing oceans might be the least of our concerns.

Permafrost Mass Graves

People have also been buried in permafrost, and many of the mass graves created for this were destined for victims of various epidemics. For example, a mass grave in the Alaskan tundra has been analyzed by scientists, and they discovered something terrifying. The 1918 Spanish flu virus that had killed them was still intact within the permafrost. And that’s not the only disease buried deep inside the tundra. We also can find the likes of smallpox and even bubonic plague in mass graves in the Siberian tundra.

This makes you wonder what might happen when we finally ruin our planet’s tundras and polar areas for good. The planet will do just fine regardless, but we surely won’t. And honestly, that might be a good thing in the grand scheme of things.


Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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