The Black Plague Essay

1179 words - 5 pages

The Black Death, also known as the Bubonic Plague or the Black Plague, is still referred to as one of the most devastating pandemics to ever hit the human world. The disease's targets were Asia, North Africa, and Europe. It originated in Asia, later appeared on the coast of Italy through Genoese merchants, then the plague spread through Europe and North Africa. Evidence of the disease can actually be traced through the trade routes of these times. The Black Plague wiped out between twenty-five and fifty percent of Europe's population; however, no actual death toll could be found as not all deaths were recorded. The plague had returned to the countries quite a few times until the 18th century, and the threat had finally subsided by the early 19th century.The Black Death was "a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis that circulates among wild rodents where they live in great numbers and density" (Benedictow 1). The bacteria come in contact with humans from the fleas on rats that lived in sewers and homes of affected towns and cities. Because it was an airborne disease it spread very quickly. The importance of hygiene was not recognized until after the pandemic, which meant the streets were filthy with waste, trash, and stray animals beforehand.The bubonic plague was dependent on two types of carriers: rodents that were resistant to the disease, which kept the disease alive, and a second rodent that lack resistance. When the second type of carrier dies, the fleas move on to other hosts, including people. Fleas from the animals spread through the city and into homes, or onto people as they walked through the streets, infecting them with the disease. From there, the disease would then spread from person to person.There are two types of diseases associated with this plague: The bubonic plague, which was the least deadly form, and the pneumonic plague. In the pneumonic plague, "the bacterial infection spread to the lungs, resulting in severe coughing, bloody sputum, and the relatively easy spread of the bacillus from human to human by coughing" (Spielvogel 308). Those affected by the disease experienced "high fever, aching joints, swelling of the lymph nodes, and dark blotches caused by bleeding underneath the skin" (Spielvogel 308) generally on the groin, neck and armpits, called buboes, hence where the disease got its name. Most victims died two to seven days after infection, making it a very dangerous disease. Rosemary Horrox once said: "It is said that the plague takes three forms. In the first people suffer an infection of the lungs, which leads to breathing difficulties. Whoever has this corruption or contamination to any extent cannot escape but will die within two days. Another form...in which boils erupt under the armpits,...a third form in which people of both sexes are attacked in the groin."The Black Plague originated in Asia among the Mongols. "…Rats accompanying Mongol troops spread the plague into central China and by 1331...

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