Friday, August 13, 2004

Alexander the Great a Victim of West Nile Virus?

Discovery Channel :: News :: Alexander the Great's Death Debated: "two U.S. scientists, John Marr, epidemiologist at the Virginia department of health, and Charles Calisher of Colorado State University, argued that Alexander's death as recounted by Greek biographer Plutarch several centuries later showed that he had encephalitis from West Nile virus.

Marr and Calister lean on Plutharch's account of the deaths of a flock of ravens as Alexander entered Babylon.

"The inexplicable behavior of ravens is reminiscent of avian illness and death weeks before the first human cases of West Nile virus infection were identified in the United States. We posit that Alexander may have died of West Nile virus encephalitis," said Marr and Calisher.

David Oldach of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, said Plutarch never meant to write a history and that Marr and Calisher were "perhaps unaware of the magnitude of Plutarch's obsession with avian auguries."