8 Old-School Diseases Making a Comeback

Gout can cause a most hellish pain.
Gout can cause a most hellish pain.
National Library of Medicine, Flickr // No Known Copyright Restrictions

Humanity spent the last century virtually eradicating some of the planet’s most unpleasant diseases. But some of them have started showing up again in increasing numbers of people. Here are eight diseases that, despite once being nearly eradicated, continue to infect people today.

1. Scarlet Fever

This deadly disease was first described in the 1500s. Due to its contagious nature and debilitating—if not deadly—effects, people greatly feared outbreaks of scarlet fever. Fans of the Little House on the Prairie series will remember it was scarlet fever that caused Mary’s blindness.

Penicillin proved an effective treatment for the disease, until recently. A sudden spike in scarlet fever cases in China, Hong Kong, and Macao in 2011 alerted scientists to a new, more virulent form of the disease. It was not just Asia that reported more cases—England saw an increase in cases in 2016, and in February 2020, a small outbreak caused a Michigan elementary school to close for a week

2. Rickets

Rickets was most common in industrialized cities during the 1800s. Children who worked in factories had poor diets and got little sunlight, which resulted in a Vitamin D deficiency. This can lead to bone problems, bowed legs, and stunted growth. As child labor laws limited kids’ time trapped inside and nutrition largely improved, rickets all but disappeared.

For almost a century, rickets was perceived as a disease that was “taken care of.” But in recent decades, case numbers have increased. Poor diets and hours spent indoors aren’t fully to blame. Rickets is a particular concern for breastfed infants, as breast milk doesn’t contain an adequate amount of vitamin D. According to the CDC, it’s rare for breastfeeding infants to get the disease, but it’s still important to supplement their diet with additional vitamin D.

3. Gout

The first documented case of gout was in Egypt in 2600 BCE. Though anyone could get it, gout was known as “the king’s disease” because symptoms most often presented themselves in royalty and the wealthy—Henry VIII and George IV both suffered from it. There was no cure, and once someone had one attack of gout, they were likely to get it again. The main symptom was unbelievably excruciating pain in a joint, usually the big toe. Attacks could last up to a week, made walking almost impossible, and even the weight of a light blanket typically put too much pressure on the joint.

The number of people suffering from gout in the U.S. has almost doubled in the last 50 years, and the numbers are expected to keep rising. Today, more than 8 million Americans have the disease. A diet of fatty meat, alcohol, and sugary drinks increases the risk of gout, as does age.

4. Syphilis

This sexually transmitted disease first appeared in Italy in 1494. The date and location have led many historians to conclude it came to Europe from the Americas. For more than 400 years, the disease was completely untreatable and became an epidemic in some areas. Vincent van Gogh’s brother, Winston Churchill’s father, and Al Capone all suffered from syphilis. People have also speculated everyone from Henry VIII to Oscar Wilde to Adolf Hitler had it as well.

By the end of the 20th century, the U.S. was on track to eliminate syphilis, thanks to the 1943 availability of penicillin and a greater awareness of the dangers of unprotected sex. Fast forward two decades, and that’s no longer the case. The rates of STIs like syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea spiked to a record high in 2018, due to factors like decreased condom use, drug-induced risky behavior, and cuts to sex education programs.

5, 6, and 7. Measles, Mumps, and Rubella

In the last 150 years, measles is estimated to have killed more than 200 million people; mumps was once the leading cause of viral meningitis; and rubella epidemics resulted in tens of thousands of miscarriages and deaths. In the 1960s, vaccines for all three diseases were developed and combined into one simple vaccine, the MMR. This caused the number of cases to plummet.

But in 1998, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published a study that linked the MMR vaccine to autism. The media widely reported the results, fueling the anti-vaccine movement, and large numbers of parents stopped vaccinating their children against these diseases. In 2004 and again in 2010, the medical community rejected the article and its findings as “utterly false,” but the damage was done.

Outbreaks of all three diseases are increasing. In 2019, the U.S. had more than 1200 measles cases—the highest number since the CDC declared it eliminated in the country in 2000. England had more than 5000 cases of mumps in 2019—the country’s highest number in a decade. And though rubella was eradicated in the Americas, it’s still an issue in Europe: Poland and Romania suffered from rubella outbreaks in 2011 and 2012 [PDF].

8. Polio

While suspected cases of polio go as far back as Ancient Egypt, the first clinical description of the disease wasn’t written until 1789. While occasional individual cases were not uncommon, it wasn’t until the 20th century that a worldwide polio epidemic occurred, peaking in the 1950s. Franklin D. Roosevelt is probably the most famous sufferer, but at its height polio paralyzed or killed approximately half a million people every year.

Two different vaccines completely eradicated the disease in much of the world. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2020, wild poliovirus type 1 is still present in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Vaccine-derived poliovirus, which can occur in severely under-immunized populations, still affects countries where wild polio is no longer endemic, such as Chad, Ethiopia, and Ghana.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

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Joshua Tree National Park Closes Two Campgrounds Due to ‘Aggressive’ Honey Bees

Dietmar Rabich, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
Dietmar Rabich, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Just a few months after closing the entire park due to the COVID-19 crisis, Joshua Tree National Park is shutting down two of its campgrounds. This time, aggressive bee activity is the culprit, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Aggressive honey bees (not to be confused with the murder hornets that made headlines in May) have invaded the Jumbo Rocks and Cottonwood campgrounds at Joshua Tree National Park. The insects were spotted swarming vehicles and campsites, putting visitors in harm's way.

Joshua Tree superintendent David Smith told the Los Angeles Times that the bees are "standard honey bees" and a natural part of the desert ecosystem. While seeing a few at a time is normal, they can be dangerous in large numbers—especially when they're thirsty. Parched honey bees will look for water anywhere they can find it, including trash bags, picnic tables, and vehicle air conditioning condensers. By clearing the affected areas of campers for a while, park officials hope the honey bees will find moisture from a safer, natural water source.

According to Joshua Tree's National Park Service page, the Jumbo Rocks campground will remain closed through July 23. The Cottonwood area is also temporarily closed, but the staff is working to get it open as quickly as possible, with no reopening date set yet. The closures mean camping at Joshua Tree will be even more difficult for visitors this summer. Through September 4, all campsites there are first come, first served.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]