The Black Death: Bubonic Plague
Perhaps no epidemic has affected the human race like the Bubonic Plague. During the late 1330's the Bubonic Plague, often referred to as the Black Death, rose from the Gobi Desert. From this region between Northern China and Mongolia, the pandemic spread east to Europe. The next five years would change the entire landscape of the once thriving medieval society, leaving the few survivors empty and pleading for a solution.
The Bubonic Plague originated in Asia and was carried to Europe by way of westbound trade routes. Before the plague moved west bound, it struck the warriors of Khan wiping them out but as they began to decamp from their position, Janibeg khan catapulted the infested corpses over the walls hoping to hit enemy lines with the devastating disease. Unknown to man at the time, this ultimate cause of this disease was a bacterium called Bacillus. The bacillus bacteria first infected fleas, which with time obstructed the digestive tract of the flea, causing it to starve. In a frantic fight to survive, the flea would try to feed off of rodents and mammals. These infected rodent and human carriers would then travel across the two continents, bringing with it a disease that would soon kill millions. Once arrived in Europe, poor sanitation allowed the Bubonic Plague to run through towns relentlessly. Poor sanitation consisted of litter and feces that were thrown into the streets and covered in hay. These actions of disposal allowed the plague to spread more quickly since rodents were attracted to the garbage which created a breeding ground for fleas. Cramped living spaces made it easier for both rats and fleas to travel from place to place infecting the humans that inhabited these living quarters. Even though the pneumonic plague was not as prevalent as bubonic plague, this highly contagious form of the plague easily spread through the cramped living quarters, infecting all that lived in that area.
Humans were affected by the disease physically in a number of ways. Once bitten by a disease carrying flea or possibly from a rodent, humans typically died within five days of the first onset of symptoms. The initial symptoms were fever and swelling of the lymph nodes. These lymph nodes would become quite large and pronounced and over time turn a black color which in large part was the reason behind the name "Black" Plague. By the third day, victims would usually experience high fever, diarrhea, delirium, and black splotches. These black splotches would appear on the tips of fingers, the nose, and anywhere there was a concentration of capillaries where the blood was infected; these black splotches were caused by the body's smaller blood vessels rupturing, causing blood to leak profusely, which became visible beneath the skin. By day five, the lymph nodes would become so swollen that they would burst, spewing out pus. By this point the victim would be dead or would die soon thereafter.
The horrible sight of mutilated bodies would litter the streets leading to the chain reaction that set forth. The social effects of the Bubonic Plague were immense. Those who were wealthy took what they could and fled the devastated areas. Those who were less fortunate were forced to stay behind. The plague caused many to become desperate for their lives, leaving them no choice but to leave the sick. Family and friends were torn apart, leaving many to fend for themselves; orphaned children were left to care for themselves, most of which would follow the same fate as their late parents. Many monasteries were flooded with the sick and only a few stayed behind to care for them. Only a scarce amount of physicians were brave enough to resume their duties. Without a cure faith in religion and in medical practice grew thin. Chaos and terror ran rampant throughout Europe; this was indeed a time of complete social disorder.
Predictably, the economic effects correlated very closely to Europe's social...
Bibliography: Encyclopedia source
Britannica Encyclopedia, 1994 Britannica Encyclopedia, page 253.
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