International Scurvy Awareness Day is observed on May 2. You might be wondering why the world still needs to worry about scurvy. The truth is that the disease is still prevalent in the world due to widespread malnutrition and starvation in many countries as well as the surprising number of individuals who undergo highly selective diets that exclude foods such as fruits and vegetables. The day is also observed to pay respects to the people who endured it in the past. Their magnificent endurance shaped the world that we know today. Naturally, we cannot forget those who still endure such suffering even now.
History of International Scurvy Awareness Day
Scurvy was first noted during the Crusades which took place from the 11th to the 13th Century. European Christian powers sent forces to conquer opposing religions. During these long journeys, it was common for the men to slowly lose their strength and develop health issues that we now know as scurvy symptoms. It was only in the 1500s onwards that scurvy was recognized as an ultimately life-threatening disease after roughly 2,000,000 sailors died from the disease.
The distressingly high death toll due to the disease sparked concern and further investigation from naval commanders and physicians alike. Commodore George Anson reported 1,855 out of 2,000 of his men perishing due to scurvy. After hearing Anson’s report, a physician called James Lind was interested enough to investigate the disease that was wiping out the British naval forces. Lind went on to conduct trials to test treatment methods he’d heard other naval medical officers implement and ultimately proved that citrus fruits could prevent the disease and help sailors maintain good health during voyages. Despite his findings being true, Lind sadly passed away before they could become popularized.
It was only at the end of the 1800s that prevention measures such as daily rations of vitamin C in the form of a juice became commonplace. After the staggering losses endured during many long voyages across land and sea, scurvy became a disease known to be fatal and highly preventable for many years. Now, though, many people view scurvy as a disease that’s attached to the stereotypical pop-culture pirate.
International Scurvy Awareness Day timeline
Hippocrates of Ancient Greece describes the symptoms of scurvy.
The earliest known mention of a disease resembling scurvy is mentioned by the Chinese monk Faxian when he writes that Chinese ships used to carry Ginger in order to prevent it.
After an estimated nine different attempts over several centuries to find a prevention and treatment for scurvy, the British Royal Navy finally institutes a mandatory ration of citrus fruits for sailors during long voyages.
Scurvy cases are largely restricted to malnourished populations in third-world countries as well as refugee camps.
International Scurvy Awareness Day FAQs
What are the symptoms of scurvy?
Weakness in arms and legs, sore muscles, bruising, and general fatigue are common symptoms of early-stage scurvy. The symptoms grow progressively worse over time if left untreated.
When was the last scurvy outbreak?
The last recorded epidemic of scurvy was recorded in November 2001 in an Afghanistan village where scurvy is considered to be a seasonal disease due to the absence of certain vitamin C-rich foods in winter.
Is scurvy contagious?
No, it is only a danger to you if you are not getting your daily requirement of vitamin C.
How to Observe International Scurvy Awareness Day
To the many souls who died from scurvy. They all helped in some small way to build the world we know today. Take a minute to think about their role in history however long ago it was.
Pay it forward
Many people are still suffering from malnutrition and scurvy. If you have the money or food to spare, think about donating to someone who needs it.
Your vitamin C
Make sure you’re taking care of yourself! Have you taken your vitamin C ration for today?
5 Facts About Scurvy That Will Surprise You
Drink your troubles away
One of the first treatments for scurvy in the British navy was drinking mead, ale, or cider.
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid, and we need this acid to stay healthy.
One of the few
Humans are one of the few creatures that are not able to produce their own vitamin C, the others being monkeys and guinea pigs.
A fresh start
With the invention of enriched bread and cereals, scurvy has become less and less of a problem even in third-world countries.
A potato a day
Potatoes contain one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C, with a serving of fries containing up to 22% of your daily requirement of vitamin C!
Why International Scurvy Awareness Day is Important
A long history
Scurvy is one of the longest-standing diseases in human civilization. Its existence has changed the course of exploration, travel, and dieting culture.
Scurvy is no longer a thing of the past as people are still getting into unbalanced diets. This Day is a reminder to avoid such dangerous diets. Never forget your daily vitamin C dose.
We get connected to people of the ancient past who have endured so much to get us here. It makes us respect every single life and role however small.
International Scurvy Awareness Day dates