For a sentient specie of omnivorous raptors (think feathered dino) with social complexity, technology and population density similar to humans ~300 years ago, what would be the most prominent health issues for the common folk?
I’m using birds and alligators as references for most things anatomy, so
what would be avian/crocodilian equivalent to fleas, flu, cholera,
measles, or other highly contagious and common ailments? (They have both
feathers and scales)
They have had little to no contact with any large mammals over the
course of their evolution - upon contact with mammals (including
humans), would that make them less or more susceptible to be affected by
human illness, or a random mix?
I know this is very broad so I’m not expecting a detailed answer - I was
just hoping you could give me some pointers as to what kind of diseases
to investigate and inspire myself from. Thank you! I really love your
script blog! :)
Yay raptors! I hope you like info-dumps.
If I assume a similar medical scene to the 1700-1800′s, I’d first broadly group the common diseases into parasitic, bacterial, viral and fungal. Most of these species don’t congregate in terribly large numbers, except in farms and fortunately for your writing, both birds and crocodiles are bred on farms in large numbers to give you disease examples that are probably common at high densities with sub-optimal hygiene. I will link to other sites for the most interesting ones.
Parasites are the group that were extremely common before effective medication, and also the most externally obvious. They’re also potential vectors for the other groups, to spread disease from one raptor to another (think about how mosquitoes do this today).
External parasites are your equivalent to fleas. Avians can get fleas, but mites and lice are far more common. Almost all wild birds are harboring some kind of feather lice. Reptiles commonly get ticks.
Scaly leg mite might give you inspiration for a suitably interesting looking disease.
Internal parasites get a bit more variable, depending on the internal anatomy of your raptor species. Almost everything can get intestinal worms (because almost everything has intestines). Where exactly in the intestines they live will depend on anatomy, and young won’t get any placental transmission from their mother if they lay eggs. Worms like Heterakis can transmit other diseases to certain species too.
Birds get respiratory parasites, which are quite unique. Air sac mites may be relevant if your raptors have them, and gapeworm is one of my personal favorites. (Yes, I have favorite parasites. I’m not weird.)
Moving onto bacterial diseases, Cholera was a big killer of humans, and poultry have Fowl Cholera of their own. Botulism toxin kills a lot of birds that congregate around waterways, but interestingly birds and reptiles seem very resistant to tetanus.
Gut pathogens like salmonella are common in reptiles and birds, and are not species specific. These things can get into just about anything, but they are often host adapted. This means the usual species they infect doesn’t get as severe pathology as a new species. This may be relevant for your mammals who encounter this species, as it’s commonly spread by poor hygiene practices.
Psittacosis is a bacterial disease that you should definitely look into. It can affect both humans and parrots, and can be lethal in both. It was historically something of a mystery disease for a while, and worth reading about.
Most species (honestly, probably all species but we haven’t bothered to look) have a poxvirus of their own. Some of these poxviruses will cross species (eg goats and sheep) and will vary in how virulent they are (smallpox vs chickenpox). They hang around in the environment for a really long time and are difficult to exterminate. Your species probably has one, but despite the name not all poxviruses present with pox on the skin.
If your species is feathered, then Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease is simply fascinating and visually dramatic. It’s a chronic disease and may fill a similar social role as leprosy
Influenza viruses commonly affect many species of birds and will also potentially cross over to humans or other mammals. Human and mammal influenza can also cross over into birds. When you get an influenza type into a ‘new’ species, death rates are typically higher.
Most concerning, however, is when you have two different influenza strains infect the same individual, recombine by infecting the same cell, and then by chance produce a totally new strain of influenza which may then infect any species that could have been infected by either parent virus. Immunity to on strain of influenza offers little protection against another. This is why bird flu outbreaks are such a concern.
I noticed you said no contact with large mammals over their evolution. If they’re farming, what’s eating their stored food? Rats are common and disease vectors to boot, if they have no rats, what do they have instead? Something will be taking advantage of food stores, and will be relevant to the diseases in the population.
And I don’t know if you considered it, but crocodillians tend to be cannibalistic. If they are, then you could potentially have a tapeworm species that spends it’s entire life cycle within this species. It matures and drops cysts in the intestine of one individual, those cysts are eaten by a second individual (faecal contamination of food most likely), then forming cysts in muscle or meat tissue, and when the 2nd individual is eaten by a 3rd individual, those cysts mature into the adult tapeworm to live inside their intestine, and the cycle begins again. There may also be a prion disease, though they are rare.