The key difference between miasmatic theory and contagionism is that miasmatic theory states that diseases such as cholera and chlamydia are caused by a miasma, which is a poisonous vapour or mist filled with particles from decomposed matter while contagionism is a concept that states the infectious diseases are contagious due to person to person contact or touching.
Miasmatic theory and contagionism are two major theories regarding the pattern and transmission of infectious diseases. Both theories discussed the spreading of infectious diseases.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Miasmatic Theory
3. What is Contagionism
4. Similarities Between Miasmatic Theory and Contagionism
5. Side by Side Comparison – Miasmatic Theory vs Contagionism in Tabular Form
What is Miasmatic Theory?
Miasmatic theory is a theory on the transmission of infectious diseases developed in the middle of the 18th century. According to miasmatic theory, infectious diseases are caused due to the presence of miasma in the air. Miasma is a poisonous vapour emanating from rotting organic matter or decaying matter. Therefore, miasmas are poisonous or bad emanations from putrefying carcasses, rotting vegetation or moulds, etc. Miasma is characterized by the foul smell. Hence, miasmatic theory is also known as bad air theory. This theory is based on the humoral theory of Hippocrates and Galen.
Miasmatic theory explained the origin of the several infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, cholera, plagues and malaria. The origin of epidemics was due to miasma. Since the diseases are due to bad air, miasmic reasoning prevented many doctors from adopting good practices such as hand washing between patients, etc. They believed that the air has to be purified in order to cure the diseases. Moreover, deteriorating hygiene in cities and fetid odours emanating from drains should be prevented in order to stop spreading diseases.
In the mid 19th century, scientists replaced this theory by the germ theory of diseases. The germ theory of diseases proved that infectious diseases are caused due to specific germs, not miasma.
What is Contagionism?
Contagionism is a concept that describes the contagious character of certain diseases. According to contagionism, infectious diseases are transmitted by the transfer of infective agents from one person to another through contacts. In other words, contagionism theory believed that infectious diseases were spread due to ‘touching together’. Therefore, pathogenic substances transmit from one person to another in a chain of contacts. People those who take care of sick people often fall sick themselves due to contagions. However, contagion theory is not only restricted to physical contact. It also states that infectious diseases can spread via the corruption of air and could be transmitted from person to person, at short range.
Since this theory believes that diseases are spread due to touching each other, the touching of infected cloth or food or people should be prevented in order to stop disease transmission. Hence, the contagionist measures were those such as quarantine and restriction of movement, preventing direct contact with potentially infected people.
What are the Similarities Between Miasmatic Theory and Contagionism?
- Miasmatic theory and contagionism are two major theories about the pattern and spread of infectious diseases.
- Both theories believed public hygiene was the best prevention of infectious diseases.
- These theories were developed in 19th
What is the Difference Between Miasmatic Theory and Contagionism?
Miasmatic theory is a theory that believed infectious diseases were transmitted due to miasma: a poisonous vapour emanated from decaying organic matter. Contagionism is a belief that stated contagious diseases are transmitted due to person to person physical contact. So, this is the key difference between miasmatic theory and contagionism.
Moreover, sanitation and good hygiene practices such as washing walls and floors, removing the foul-smelling sources of miasmas such as decaying waste and sewage are the preventive measures in miasmatic theory while quarantine and restriction of movement, preventing direct contact with potentially infected people are the preventive measures in contagionism.
Below is a summary tabulation of the difference between miasmatic theory and contagionism.
Summary – Miasmatic Theory vs Contagionism
Miasmatic theory states that diseases such as cholera and malaria occur due to poisonous vapours or miasma coming from decomposing organic material such as waste, manure and cadavers, etc. According to this theory, if the disease needs to be cured, the air has to be purified. On the other hand, contagionism theory says that contagious diseases occur due to person to person contact. In order to avoid the transmission of contagious diseases, the touching of infected cloth or food or people should be prevented. Thus, this summarizes the difference between miasmatic theory and contagionism.
1. “Cholera art” By Robert Seymour – A Short History of the National Institutes of Health National Library of Medicine photographic archive.Cholera " Tramples the victors & the vanquished both." Robert Seymour. U.S. National Library of Medicine (Public Domain) via Commmons Wikimedia