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CLUE: More Dictionary Definitions

ANTIMONY. A metallic element formerly used to make many medicines for the treatment of fevers. It causes vomiting, sweating, and purging of the bowels. Chronic exposure to antimony compounds can cause nausea, vomiting, "antimony spots" (scaly skin blemishes), and anemia, often progressing to circulatory collapse and death.

APOTHECARIST, APOTHECARY. One who prepares medicines or drugs; pharmacist.

BOTULISM. Acute food poisoning caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, an obligate anaerobe that often grows in canned foods that have not been heated to kill all bacteria. A bulging can or a pffft sound when opening may indicate contamination. Botulin toxins cause muscle paralysis; if respiratory muscles become paralyzed, the victim dies.

CANNING. The process of sealing foodstuffs into cans under heat, a process that became commercially viable in the early 18th century. Both chemical and microbial contamination can cause cans to bloat or pressurize; such cans should be discarded (see botulism).

COWPOX. A relatively minor viral disease of cattle, often transmitted to humans that milk them. It causes pox (pustules) on the hands and arms but generally is not fatal. Because the cowpox virus is very similar to the smallpox virus, people who had cowpox are immune to smallpox. See immunity.

IMMUNITY. Protection from something. People who have had a viral disease generally are resistant to re-infection for a time, because viruses generally stimulate a response from the immune system. Vaccines confer immunity by stimulating a similiar response; see vaccination.

INOCULATION. The act of exposing someone to a disease. In medicine, this is usually done with a weakened form of a disease to generate immunity from a more injurious occurrence. Beginning in 1796, doctors began inoculating some people with cowpox, because cowpox generated immunity to the much deadlier smallpox.

LEAD. Poisonous heavy metallic element. Exposure to lead compounds can cause anemia, mood swings, intense abdominal cramps, confusion and brain damage. Nerve paralysis usually begins with the hands. Before 1950, about 25% of all severe cases ended in death.

METEOR. Extraterrestrial matter that becomes incandescent upon entering the earth's atmosphere.

METEORITE. A meteor that reaches the surface of the earth.

MIDDEN. Trash pile; garbage heap.

PERNICIOUS. Highly injurious or destructive; deadly.

PLAGUE. Pneumonic plague. A deadlier form of bubonic plague in which bacteria spread from lymph nodes to the lungs, causing pneumonia. Victims can transmit pneumonic plague directly via droplets in the air.

PNEUMONIA. Inflammation of the lungs leading to fluid leakage and loss of function of lung tissue. Although it's often associated with pneumococcus bacteria, pneumonia can be caused by a variety of microbial or chemical irritants.

PUSTULES. Pimples.

SMALLPOX. An acute contagious viral disease, often fatal, transmitted from contact with an infected person or their belongings. Victims suffer first from a high fever, which abates; soon after, the skin erupts in a fiery rash that develops into pustules which leave deep scars (pocks) on survivors. The rash usually begins in the face, progressing to chest, arms then legs. Death occurs if at any time the virus attacks the heart, liver, or other internal organs. One of mankind's most pernicious diseases, smallpox became the target of a worldwide vaccination effort. Sweden was the first country to be smallpox-free, in 1895. In 1979, the World Health Organization reported that, except for a few vials kept in deep freeze, smallpox had been eliminated from the earth.

VACCINATION. The administration of weakened or killed micro-organisms in order to induce or strengthen the immune response.


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