Latest Research Suggest Vikings Brought Illness To Ireland

New Irish research suggests that the Vikings caused leprosy in Ireland. The claim comes after the examination of the remains excavated from Irish cemeteries. The study focused on five probable cases of leprosy from the human skeletal remains.

The researchers were drawn from the Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Southampton and the University of Surrey. The researchers examined the skeletal remains of three individuals that were excavated from a cemetery in Dublin. The other two remains came from Co Antrim and Co Kildare in Ireland.

Interestingly, none of these three individuals examined appear to have been a local in Dublin. One might have been from Northern Ireland or was a British. According to the study, the remaining two individuals grew up in Scandinavia and were therefore foreign in Dublin.

Who Were The Vikings?

The Vikings also called the Norse or Norsemen were people who came from Scandinavia, and they lived between the 8th and 11th century. Scandinavia is current Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The Vikings sailed around most parts of Europe trading, raiding as well as spreading their influence.

The Vikings had a notorious history as raiders and pirates mainly targeting wealthy Christians. However, not all of them had a notorious reputation of pirating and raiding. Some were explorers who spread across Europe and other parts like Asia and northern Africa. Some of the Vikings settled in the north of Britain and Ireland.

The name Viking’s origins are uncertain, but it may refer to the people who came from the edges of the sea and land. These people also inhabited the same areas. The term Viking may also refer to the temporary shelters they constructed during their raids. The Vikings later occupied different places in Dublin and are believed to be responsible for causing leprosy in this area.

men in battle vikings fighting

What Is Leprosy?

Leprosy is an infectious condition that is caused by Mycobacterium leprae, and it is also called Hansen’s disease. The disease mainly affects the skin, eyes, respiratory tract surfaces as well as the peripheral nerves.

Leprosy is prevalent among all age groups including early infancy to older age. However, the disease is curable, and initial treatment can help to avert various disabilities. The mechanism of transmission of the disease is not known. There is a full belief that contact between healthy and infected persons can transmit the virus.

There is a possibility that of transmission of leprosy via the respiratory route. There is also a probability of transmission of the disease through insects. The symptoms of leprosy are straightforward to observe. However, it takes about three to five years before the symptoms appear after getting into contact with the bacteria that causes leprosy.

The symptoms of leprosy can also take up to 20 years to appear and the period in between is called incubation. The condition’s long incubation period makes it challenging for the doctors to diagnose whether a person is infected or not. You can live with the symptoms for an extended period without knowing it.

Symptoms Of Leprosy

A person with leprosy has positive skin smears which can be irritating. The other sign of the disease is the skin lesion that can either be single or multiple. The skin lesions are less pigmented compared to the healthy surrounding skin. In some instances, the wounds are reddish.

Some of the skin lesions are visible, and they are flat while others are raised. The other typical feature of leprosy is sensory loss and skin lesion can also cause loss of sensation. Thickened nerves are also other signs of leprosy which can result in weakness of the muscles.  Nerve thickening without a sensory deprivation is not a reliable sign of disease.

The disease causes severe skin sores in different parts of the body, and it has been there since ancient times. Leprosy usually carries negative and terrifying stigmas where the patients receive bad treatment in their respective societies.

Origins Of Leprosy In Ireland

According to Professor Eileen Murphy, from the Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Natural and Built Environment, leprosy is little known in Medieval Ireland. One notable aspect of Ireland is that it is an island in the far west of Europe.

By its location away from the greater Europe, Ireland can provide an interesting case study of the origins of Leprosy. Since there is relatively little knowledge about the disease in Ireland, it means that immigrants might have brought it. The small nation is isolated, and research indicates that the foreigners brought the plague.

The other exciting thing about Ireland in the history of leprosy is its isolation. It was never part of the Roman world implying that it had no close contact with the outer world. Therefore, it is interesting to determine how the disease migrated to the island without direct links with the outside world.

The other aspect is that Ireland was never part of the Anglo-Saxon settlement. In other words, it did not experience significant occupation by the Anglo-Saxon settlers. These could be potential candidates for spreading leprosy by their mobility to different parts of the globe.

Types Of Leprosy In Ireland

Genetic investigations were conducted on two individuals in Dublin on the leprosy bacterium strains. The strains were dated between the early 10th century and the 13th century. The results indicated that these two individuals had two different strains of leprosy.

One type of strain had indications that its probable origin was Scandinavia (Type 3). The other kind of strain also had roots in the Middle East. These two strains show that leprosy did not originate in Ireland. The Type 3 strain is evidence that the Vikings brought disease to Ireland since it was not common in this place.

The other aspect is that the Dublin skeletons were also examined to establish the places where they spent their early lives. None of the three individuals was local to Dublin. The remaining two were from Scandinavia hence the assertion that they brought leprosy to Dublin.

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