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June 2024

Tierarztl Prax. 1993 Oct; 21(5): 391-5.

[Health and disease in humans and animals over the course of history]

Mayr A.

Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie und Seuchenlehre der Tierärztlichen Fakultät der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

A historical review of the terms health and sickness in human beings and animals. The terms health and sickness have changed from ancient history to the present day and have also been modified. The notions of what life really is, when it starts and when it ends, have contributed to these changes. Historically, health and sickness have generally been interpreted anthropocentrically in the course of time, rarely has the companionship between man and animal been taken into account. A closer look over the past three millennia as to the science of the dynamics of diseases, the humoral pathology and the solidistic pathology, leads to the conclusion that the terms sickness and health have only been understood in general, not in detail. In the last decades of the 19th century and up to the present day an essential change of the notion of sickness was initiated through cellular pathology by R. Virchow (1821-1902). Eventually, bacteriology, virology, molecular biology and gene technology have established new standards with regard to health and sickness and have paved the way to the present holistic medicine, which is based on science. Sickness is defined as a verifiable divergence from the norm of anatomical, physiological, immunological and psychic conditions of an organism and, accordingly, as a pathological form of being, implying a disturbance of homeostasis. The legal issues such as the federal laws on epidemic diseases of human beings and animals and on insurance are dealt with in conclusion.

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