Megadrought and Megadeath in 16th Century Mexico – Volume 8, Number 4—April 2002 – Emerging Infectious Diseases journal – CDC – 25 million deaths in Mexico 1519-1576

The native people of Mexico experienced an epidemic disease in the wake of European conquest (Figure 1), beginning with the smallpox epidemic of 1519 to 1520 when 5 million to 8 million people perished. The catastrophic epidemics that began in 1545 and 1576 subsequently killed an additional 7 million to 17 million people in the highlands of Mexico (1–3). Recent epidemiologic research suggests that the events in 1545 and 1576, associated with a high death rate and referred to as cocoliztli (Nahuatl for “pest”), may have been due to indigenous hemorrhagic fevers (4,5). Tree-ring evidence, allowing reconstructions of the levels precipitation, indicate that the worst drought to afflict North America in the past 500 years also occurred in the mid-16th century, when severe drought extended at times from Mexico to the boreal forest and from the Pacific to Atlantic coasts (6). These droughts appear to have interacted with ecologic and sociologic conditions, magnifying the human impact of infectious disease in 16th-century Mexico. The epidemic of cocoliztli from1545 to 1548 killed an estimated 5 million to 15 million people, or up to 80% of the native population of Mexico (Figure 1). In ab

Source: Megadrought and Megadeath in 16th Century Mexico – Volume 8, Number 4—April 2002 – Emerging Infectious Diseases journal – CDC