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Dirt, disgust and disease: a natural history of hygiene.

J Epidemiol Community Health, 2007; 61(8):660-4
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pub_id
17630362
pubmedid
17630362
ISI
248036300002
reference_type
author
Curtis, V.A.;
title
Dirt, disgust and disease: a natural history of hygiene.
secondary_title
J Epidemiol Community Health
ISBNISSN
0143-005X
volume
61
number
8
pages
660-4
year
2007
abstract
Hygiene has been studied from multiple perspectives, including that of history. I define hygiene as the set of behaviours that animals, including humans, use to avoid infection. I argue that it has an ancient evolutionary history, and that most animals exhibit such behaviours because they were adaptive. In humans, the avoidance of infectious threats is motivated by the emotion of disgust. Intuition about hygiene, dirt and disease can be found underlying belief about health and disease throughout history. Purification ritual, miasma, contagion, zymotic and germ theories of disease are ideas that spread through society because they are intuitively attractive, because they are supported by evidence either from direct experience or from authoritative report and because they are consistent with existing beliefs. In contrast to much historical and anthropological assertion, I argue that hygiene behaviour and disgust predate culture and so cannot fully be explained as its product. The history of ideas about disease thus is neither entirely socially constructed nor an "heroic progress" of scientists leading the ignorant into the light. As an animal behaviour the proper domain of hygiene is biology, and without this perspective attempts at explanation are incomplete. The approaches of biological anthropology have much to offer the practice of cultural history.
keywords
secondary_author
place_published
publisher
number_of_volumes
tertiary_author
tertiary_title
edition
date
2007-08-01
type_of_work
subsidiary_author
alternate_title
call_number
accession_number
custom_1
WOS OK
custom_2
Unknown
custom_3
custom_4
10.1136/jech.2007.062380
custom_5
PMC
custom_6
10
label
2016-10-18
notes
Journal Article
url
author_address
The Hygiene Centre, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel St, London WC1E 7HT, UK. Val.curtis@lshtm.ac.uk.
library
61/8/660 10.1136/jech.2007.062380 17630362
date_accepted
date_online
created
2007-07-18 16:32:31
modified
2016-07-08 00:00:00
library

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<ArticleId IdType="doi">10.1136/jech.2007.062380</ArticleId>
<ArticleId IdType="pubmed">17630362</ArticleId>