Disease: Cocoliztli Epidemic of 1545–1548
Estimated Death Toll: 5–15 million (80% of population)
The cocoliztli epidemic or the great pestilence is a term given to millions of deaths in the territory of New Spain in present-day Mexico in the 16th century attributed to one or more illnesses collectively called cocoliztli, a mysterious illness characterized by high fevers and bleeding. It ravaged the Mexican highlands in epidemic proportions. The disease became known as Cocoliztli by the native Aztecs, and had devastating effects on the area’s demography, particularly for the indigenous people. Based on the death toll, this outbreak is often referred to as the worst disease epidemic in the history of Mexico. Subsequent outbreaks continued to baffle both Spanish and native doctors, with little consensus among modern researchers on the pathogenesis. However, recent bacterial genomic studies have suggested that Salmonella, specifically a serotype of Salmonella enterica known as Paratyphi C, was at least partially responsible for this initial outbreak. It might have also been an indigenous viral hemorrhagic fever, perhaps exacerbated by the worst droughts to affect that region in 500 years, as well as living conditions for indigenous peoples of Mexico in the wake of the Spanish conquest. Wikipedia Reference »
By en:Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), compiler. Original illustration by unknown 16th-century artist; this version of the drawing by unknown 16th-century copyist. – Florentine Codex (1540-1585), Book XII folio 54.
As reproduced in:
Fields, Sherry (2008). Pestilence and Headcolds: Encountering Illness in Colonial Mexico, Gutenberg-e series, e-book edn. New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0-231-14240-3.
Reproduction from the MS. held at Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence., Public Domain, Link