Mr. Don Godfrey
English Comp I
10 November 2014
The Black Death
Throughout recorded history, there have been many pandemics that have dealt devastating blows to the human population. Smallpox, Cholera, and Spanish Influenza, are all examples of deadly diseases that have killed millions of people, but perhaps the most infamous of these is what many know as “The Black Death.” This pestilence ravaged Europe destroying entire towns, tearing apart families, and spreading fear like wildfire until it finally ended. This was a dark time in history, a time that left many questions open for speculation. During the time of Black Death, people had no way of knowing what this disease truly was, how it came to Europe, what caused it, or how to cure it. Today, we have answers to all of these questions, allowing us to combat this disease that still affects people across the world.
The Black Death is not a name of a disease, but rather a specific outbreak of a disease called plague. Plague is a disease that is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia Pestis (“Plague: Ecology and Transmission”) Yersinia Pestis is a bacterium that is most commonly found in rodents and other small mammals. When transmitted to humans, the subsequent disease, plague, takes hold (“Plague: Ecology and Transmission”). The disease has three forms, all of which are deadly in their own right and were a part of the Black Death outbreak. The first and most common form is the bubonic plague. The bubonic plague is usually spread by infected fleas that bite humans. The symptom that gave this form of the disease its name is the occurrence of one or more swollen lymph nodes that are called “Buboes.” ("Plague: Symptoms") The septicemic plague is the second form and it is transmitted similarly to the bubonic plague. This form of the plague can be transitional, manifesting as the first symptoms of plague, or developing from untreated bubonic plague. The visible symptom of this form of plague is the blackening of the skin, a result of internal bleeding infecting organs, skin, and other tissues, killing them ("Plague: Symptoms"). The third and most serious form of plague is the pneumonic plague. The pneumonic plague can also be transitional if either of the other two forms are left untreated and allowed to infect the lungs. The Pneumonic Plague can also be contracted by inhaling infectious droplets hat could be transmitted through the cough of an infected person, resulting in rapidly forming Pneumonia that often led to respiratory failure and shock. Pneumonic plague is the only form of plague that can be transferred directly from person to person (“Plague: Symptoms”).
It is believed that the Black Death originated in China, specifically the Gobi Desert, during the 1320’s (Murray). The disease continued to spread, reaching the coast of the black sea in 1346 (Murray). By 1347 the plague reaches Constantinople and then to Alexandria, Cyprus, and Sicily as well as Italy (Murray). In 1348, the illness reaches France, the Italian Islands, Germany, the rest of Egypt, and parts of England (Murray). In 1349, Scotland the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and the Islamic world are all affected (Murray). In 1350 Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Slavic Europe are all hit, followed by the eastern side of Germany as well as the Russian Steppe where pandemic finally comes to an end (Murray).
The way that plague was spread was another huge factor in how devastating the death toll of this disease was. As stated earlier, the disease originated in the Gobi Desert (Murray). During this time, there were three main trade routes to the west. At this point, trade ships were the main carrier of the disease (Murray). Flea infested rats would hide among the cargo and infect the sailors; and when the ships would come to port, some of the rats would leave the ship and infect some of the townspeople in the new town (Murray). Fleas that were carried by rats would bite humans, therefore infecting...
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Shariff, Mohammed. "10 Crazy Cures for the Black Death - Listverse." Listverse. 21 Jan. 2013.
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