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For the most part, Northerners are healthy people, but significant diseases still occur. There are various minor diseases such as colds. The human population isn't large enough to support true plagues, but there are some infectious diseases that have a large population base in animals and can jump to humans. The small human population also concentrates recessive genes, including some genetic diseases. This article summarizes some of the diseases that appear in stories and other Torn World materials.
The Ancients had quite advanced science. The Northerners enjoy some benefits of that even though they have lost most of the technology. Many of the most important points in medicine are not materials but ideas -- such as anatomy, or germ theory and the subsequent practice of hygiene. This gives the Northerners a much better footing compared to historic tribes lacking such information.
Northern medicine is primarily herbal. They have a good variety of plants for treating most common complaints. In particular, feverpod yields an excellent antibiotic. Infectious diseases can therefore be treated, with varying degrees of success. There is not much that can be done for genetic diseases, beyond trying to avoid passing them on and compensating for symptoms as they appear.
Amukiiron (Northern Dwarfism)
Amukiiron is an autosomal recessive disease, which means both parents must pass on the potential to a child, that causes a variety of defects. (Contrast this with the dwarfing condition of the Duurludirj in the South, which is considered normal there since it rarely causes damage.) It shortens stature and often deforms the feet. It can also cause more damage to other bones and joints. However, people with this disease often have greater Othersense than average. Those with milder cases may capitalize on this sensitivity and become rangers, even if they need some extra accommodation for their limits. Those with more severe cases are likely to become domestics for the greater safety and comfort of village life.
Families with a history of this disease are advised not to breed together, in hopes of avoiding more cases, including individuals who don't manifest it. People who actually have Amukiiron must take extra care in this regard. Some of them choose not to have children at all, and this is usually respected even though a small population makes people aware of the need to reproduce.
The Coughing Sickness
The coughing sickness is a respiratory disease caused by bacteria. It harbors in birds, especially seabirds. Thus it's most common in Itakith, less so in Itadesh, and rarest in Itrelir. It can manifest shortly after exposure, usually in summer; or linger until triggered by stress, often in spring. A significant outbreak happens about once every 10-20 years.
Once active in humans, the disease spreads easily as people cough on each other or breathe the same air. Victims are therefore isolated as soon as possible. Fortunately those who recover become immune. Most people recover and are fine. Some die. A few have permanent damage such as weakened respiratory systems. The coughing sickness is also prone to inviting secondary infections, which can have other lasting effects such as loss of voice.
Snow-fever is a febrile disease caused by a virus. Like colds and influenza, it tends to mutate rapidly. It harbors in snow-unicorns. It tends to manifest in late autumn or early winter, when the temperatures are dropping and the snowies may be sheltered in or near the villages. A significant outbreak happens about once every 20-30 years.
The main symptoms are lethargy and fever, sometimes dangerously hot. Other symptoms vary by strain and can include as flushed skin, body aches, sore throat, chills and shivers, or more rarely hallucinations. Snow-fever can kill. It sometimes causes miscarriage, and nursing women usually have their milk dry up. Hearing loss or other permanent effects are also possible. People can catch it more than once because the strains change over time.
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Diseases in the North: Snow-Fever: Snow-fever is an infectious febrile disease of the North.
Diseases of the North: The Coughing Sickness: The coughing sickness is a contagious bacterial disease of the North.
Marrow Rot: Marrow rot is a bacterial bone infection that sometimes follows traumatic injury.
Northern Dwarfism (Amukiiron): With a limited genetic pool, genetic diseases caused by recessive genes are bound to be more common. Northern Dwarfism is an autosomal recessive disease with a Torn World twist.
Snow-unicorn Riders: A description of the practices and beliefs of the people who live in the northern-most reaches of Torn World.