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Germs, Genes, and Bacteria: How They Influence Modern Life (Collection) by Joyce A. Schoemaker, Paul J. H. Schoemaker, Anne Maczulak, Greg Gibson, David Clark

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6. Pestilence and warfare

Who kills more?

Although we humans pride ourselves on our ability to destroy each other, most war casualties have been the result of infections, not enemy action. No, not infected wounds, either. Nowadays bullet holes and stab wounds are rarely fatal unless they hit a vital organ. Before antiseptics and antibiotics were available, however, wounds often became infected and frequently resulted in the loss of life or limb. Nonetheless, most casualties before modern times resulted from infections that killed soldiers who had not been wounded in combat—very often soldiers who had not even gotten into combat. Only since the twentieth century have improved hygiene and, to a lesser extent, enhanced firepower allowed humans to ...

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