Gen: 1:2 NIV, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…”
We have been scared out of the sun for the last fifty years. It has been constantly screamed at us about the danger of sun exposure. We have slathered huge amounts of sunscreen on our bodies when we do go into the sun. Also, with the invention of TV and computers, we have spent significantly more time inside than out during the recent decades. This has presented the question, “Have we created an opportunity for a major pandemic because of the reduction of vitamin D from low sun exposure?”
I thought a unique way of determining the answer to this question is to look at past pandemics. I also decided to look at just bubonic plague outbreaks as this is well documented over the last fifteen hundred years. There have been three major outbreaks.
The first outbreak of bubonic plague began in Europe, Constantinople, in approximately 542. There was a significant event just prior that cause the solar incidence to be significantly reduced. This event occurred in approximately 536. The reduced sun and resulting cold and crop failures went on for many years. Michael the Syrian, who wrote “the sun became dark and its darkness lasted for one and a half years… Each day it shone for about four hours and still this light was only a feeble shadow…the fruits did not ripen and the wine tasted like sour grapes.”
Robert A. Dull of the University of Texas believes that this reduce solar incidence occurred because of a volcanic eruption in El Salvador. The volcano is named Llopango and its caldera forms Lake Llopango that is 11 x 17 km near the city of San Salvador. There is enough scientific evidence that Dull is certain the ash cloud from this eruption was the cause.
It is interesting to note that the disease was carried by rats, a nocturnal animal. It is easy to understand that nocturnal animals would have a much lower opportunity to receive vitamin D from any source. It is estimated that the plague killed approximately 50 million people in the Roman Empire alone.
Second Outbreak – The Black Death
This outbreak was believed to have begun in Mongolia in the earlier 1330’s. It then spread to Europe as merchant ships arrived from the Crimea in approximately 1347. It is reported that approximately a third of the population was killed in Europe. In looking for volcanic activity, I found that Mount Tarawera (New Zealand) erupted around AD 1315. The ash thrown from this event may have dropped temperatures around the globe and precipitated the Great Famine of 1315–1317 in Europe. This was also the start of the Little Ice Age. Again, we find significant reduction in solar incidence. Also, I would imagine people started to wear more clothing because of the cold. It is interesting to note that the world’s population increased in areas other than Europe.
The third outbreak started again in Eastern Asia in approximately 1855. It was mostly localized. It then spread to the rest of China and India in the 1890’s where approximately 12 million people died. I found volcanic activity from another major eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886 and Krakatoa in 1883(Sunda Arc). Again the eruptions occurred just a few years before a major outbreak.
Are we a population of sun deficient, vitamin D deficient people waiting for another major pandemic to occur? This is a very unnerving scenario. We can only hope that the current outbreak of Ebola is localized to West Africa. Ebola is a disease that is believed to have originated with bats, a nocturnal animal. Have we discovered enough science to arrest the disease? With this concern, the incidence of sun cancer should be the least of your worries. Responsibly spend time in the sun. Don’t let your skin burn, but stay long enough to build your vitamin D3 stores. If you live in northern latitudes or stay inside, then supplement. It is not as good as the sun, but better than no vitamin D3. – Pandemic Survivor
NOAA “A New Look at the 1918/1919 El Nino Suggest Link to Flu Pandemic”
Earth Magazine AAG: Eruption of El Salvador’s Llpango Explains A.D. 536 Cooling
Wiki Timeline of Volcanic Eruptions
Wiki Mount Tarawera (New Zealand)
Mark, Very interesting! Thanks, Brett
World War I Influenza tied to UV
Graphs of seasonal and pandemic Influenzas – vary with UV