The black plague was the term used to refer to one of the deadliest diseases to have been witnessed in the world. Between 1347 and 1350, the disease was found to kill one person for every four people in Europe. By 1352, the plague would have killed more than a third of the entire population in the continent. It was also expected to last for about three hundred years. The plague was believed to be caused by a bacterium known as Yersinia pestis (Herlihy 76). However, there are those who dispute this claim. Generally, the plague claimed approximately two hundred million lives in the entire world.
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Origin of the plague
Also referred to as Black Death, the plague was believed to have originated from China. Scientists claim that infected rats transferred the disease to a human being after being bitten by fleas that later attacked a human being. The plague was capable of killing the infected person within a few hours. The disease got the term Black plague to the formation of huge black boils at the glands of the infected person. Despite some of the people claiming that the plague originated in Central Asia, there are those who claim that it started in northern India. Historians like Michael Dols claim that the occurrence of the plague in the Mediterranean poses a high probability of the plague having originated from Africa. From Africa, the disease then spread to Central Asia like China where it infected the rodent family (Dawn para. 3-7).
From Asia, the plague traveled to Europe through the Crimean port. This was through the Genoese trading ships which used to trade with Asia. The Mongol armies under the control of Jani Beg were suffering from the plague. When they were attacked, they propelled the infected corpses over the other side of the wall to infect their enemies (Kelly pp. 46-69). On being infected by the plague, the Genoese decided to flee the infected area by sailing back to their home country. By the time they landed in Italy, most of the infected persons aboard had already died while others were dying. This led to the disease having access to in Europe. From here, the disease spread across the continent through trade routes as infected persons continued with their trading activities.
Classification of the plague
The plague was categorized into three groups which were septicemic, bubonic and pneumonic. Of the three plagues, bubonic was the most prevalent and was spread to rodents and fleas. The affected person would get swollen lymph nodes in his or her groin, armpits and also in the neck. Due to bleeding, the nodes would turn black. The victim also would show other symptoms such as headache, vomiting and nausea. Nevertheless, there were victims who died without showing other symptoms apart from developing swollen lymph nodes. The death rate of the bubonic plague was found to be at 75% with most of the affected persons not going for more than seventy-two hours after being infected.
On the other hand, the pneumonic plague was more severe with a death rate of between 90-95%. The infected person was said to suffer from fluids in his or her lungs. The fluid made the victim spit blood and mucous (Kishlansky, Gaery & O’brien pp. 37-55). The disease also spread at a high rate as it was communicable. The affected persons did not last for more than forty-eight hours after being infected. Among the three plagued, the septicemic plague was found to be the deadliest. Since then, scientists have not been able to come up with a cure for this plague. The plague attacked the blood and had a death rate that was close to a hundred percent. Most of the infected persons died on the material day they exhibited symptoms of the plague. The affected victims exhibited symptoms such as skin discoloration and fever.
One of the major challenges that hampered the ability to curb the spread of the plague in the world was the fear of being infected. For communicable plague such as pneumonic plague, one could be infected after inhaling the air exhaled by the victim. This led to people abandoning their loved ones after realizing that they have been infected. Those who decided to remain with their friends despite being infected were not well received by society. They were forced to remain in their houses and were not allowed to interact with others. Fear that the stench of dead people would lead to others being infected made people use handkerchiefs to wrap their noses.
Despite the plague being contained through clearing bushes and quarantine, the plague kept on reoccurring during winter when there were a lot of fleas. This trend prevailed during the 14th century through the 17th century (Duncan & Scott para. 2-6). The Black Death also kept reoccurring in the Islamic countries up to the 19th century. Currently, bubonic plague keeps on reoccurring in isolated places. However, its effect is not significantly felt as there is a cure for the plague.
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- Dawn, James. “The black plague.” n.d. 2010. Web.
- Duncan, Christopher & Scott, Susan. “The history of the black death.” 2004.
- Herlihy, Daniel. The Black Death and the Transformation of the West. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
- Kelly, John. The Great Mortality, an Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2005.
- Kishlansky, Mark, Gaery, Patrick & O’brien, Patricia. Civilization in the west. London: Pearson Longman, 2007.