What Is The Black Death?

The Black Death was a pandemic that has been estimated to claim around 75 to 200 million lives during 1346 – 1353. The Black Death was a direct result of bacteria known as Yersnia Pestis which was carried by fleas that lived on black rats. These rats spread because it got on to merchant ships that were on the historic silk road. It has been found that 30% to 60% of the European population was wiped out due to the disease.

Initially the disease would break out in a small area and die down but when these rats got onto to ships, it was able to spread the disease all cross Europe. The plague is known to have originated from China and thereafter spread. During this time people were unaware what caused the plague leading to religious, political and social upheaval. The plague also spread to the Middle East as well. Today where we have bed bug treatment and many other treatments to protect us, this was not the case at that time.

Symptoms started out as swollen lymph glands on the body which oozed pus. This usually happened on the groin, neck and armpit area. Sometimes these lymph glands swell to large sizes and when opened or broken it bled. Further the affected later vomited blood and had high fever. Usually the victim would die in a few days after. Another form of the plague happened when the lungs got infected and people had difficulty breathing. Further many bite marks were identified on the bodies, which were in fact flea bites.

At the time medical knowledge was very limited and most people thought the disease occurred due to many reasons such as the wrath of god etc. The plague carrying fleas depended on rodents. At the time people were unaware of this and there were no mice control. There were two types of rodents, one was the rodents that were resistant that carried the fleas and kept the disease endemic and the second type that weren’t resistant and would die resulting in the fleas moving onto other hosts such as humans.

The plague reoccurred every few years. Even though it has reoccurred people have been able to contain and limit the death toll unlike the initial few outbreaks. Further with improvement in medical technology and advances in chemistry and biology we have been able to create vaccines and antibiotics to combat this disease.  The plague bacteria on the other hand can develop drug resistance. An example of this was in Madagascar in 1995. The most recent reoccurrence of the plague was in 2014, where it resurfaced in Madagascar again.