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Mozart suffered from strep throat

Jenny Decker RN's picture
Mozart and Strep Throat

On December 5, 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart succumbed to complications from a strep throat and passed away. Scientists have studied records of his symptoms with death records of the day and age of Mozart and were able to conclude that he died of kidney failure that was a result of strep throat.

Strep throat is caused by a bacterium known as Group A streptococcus. This bacterium is often found in the throat and on the skin. Many people do not even have symptoms. Most infections are mild. Symptoms include a sore throat and a high fever, generally 101 to 103 degrees F. Large, tender lymph nodes can make it very painful to swallow. The throat is generally red and swollen, with white discharge noted on the tonsils. The absence of a runny nose, nasal congestion, and cough are suggestive of a strep throat. Another symptom of strep throat is a rash on the trunk. Sometimes this is the only symptom.

The world has been intrigued by the death of Mozart. He was only 35. There are several theories as to what he died of. These include poisoning and renal failure, among others. Scientists analyzed what caused death in the highest numbers during the time of Mozart’s death. The third leading cause of death was edema. Scientists found eyewitnesses stated that the end of Mozart’s disease was marked by severe edema. In fact, many young men in the surrounding weeks of Mozart’s death died from severe edema. Scientists believe that it was strep throat that killed Mozart.

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Had Mozart been able to be detected and treated, he may have lived a much longer life. Strep throat is relatively easy to treat. Antibiotics for a short duration often solve the problem. A person with strep throat that has 24 hours of antibiotic therapy is no longer contagious. Antibiotics such as penicillin, cefdinir, cephalexin, and others are used to treat strep throat.

Detecting strep throat can assist the doctor in providing prompt treatment. Usually, a throat swab is done to detect Group A strep. This gives results in about 5 minutes. A blood test can also be done, but this can take a few days. In the time of Mozart, strep throat was a death sentence if it was severe enough. Apparently, there was a minor strep epidemic occurring that killed many young men, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It is important to see a doctor if symptoms arise. Group A strep can hide in the body, such as the heart, and cause rheumatic fever. Although this is now rare because of antibiotic treatment, it still occurs and is very serious. It can damage the heart. Rheumatic fever is more common than the complication that caused Mozart’s death. This complication is known as poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis. This causes kidney failure and eventual death.

One of the best ways to prevent strep throat is through handwashing. If you believe you may have strep throat, go to a doctor and be examined. A few days of antibiotics can take care of it. With the advances in medicine since the time of Mozart, it is amazing that we do have the ability to save lives from many things, including strep throat.