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The Bubonic Plague in European History

The Bubonic Plague in European History

In the 1340’s, approximately one third to one half the population of Europe was wiped out by what was called “The Black Death? The people of the time were armed with little to no understanding of why and how the plague happened and how to control it; and this allowed for the vast destruction that occurred in little more than three years time. The origin of the epidemic has, with little doubt, been identified as Lake Issyk-Koul in what is now a part of Russian Central Asia. A flood, or some other natural disaster, drove various rodents from their habitats around the lake; and with them they carried fleas infected with the plague. A species of wild rodents normally isolated from humanity spread the plague to the more common black rat, which has been riding on board ships since man first set sail. The plague then followed the trade routes all over Europe. “Ships arrived from Caffa at the port of Messina, Sicily. A few dying men clung to the oars; the rest lay dead on the decks... Ships that carried the coveted goods of the fabled East now also carried death. The Pestilence had come to the shores of Europe?(Wark). The accounts of the plague tell of the symptoms being ‘tumors in the groin or the armpits? and ‘black livid spots on the arm or thigh? typical symptoms of Bubonic plague. However, Bubonic plague normally takes several days to kill, and many accounts tell of victims falling dead inside one day of contracting the disease. The variance in the cases of the Black Death are the workings of three strains of the plague: the plague proper; a pulmonary (air-borne) version, characterized by the vomiting of blood; and a septicaemic variant, capable of killing in several hours, before typical symptoms can even develop. The people the plague threatened knew neither the source of the disease, nor how to protect themselves from it. “It was said that the cause of the Pestilence or The Great Mortality -- 14th-century names for the contagion -- was a particularly sinister alignment of the planets, or a foul wind created by recent earthquakes. Other theories existed. ‘Looks,? According to one medieval physician, ‘could kill??(Wark). They believed their best recourse for avoiding the plague, was to run from it. When flight was not an option, they attempted to purify the air...

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