The Black Death
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The Black Death research papers begin with the fact that in October 1347, a Genoese trading ship put into port in Messina, Sicily. It had come from a trading post on the Black Sea in the Crimea, and was full of dead and dying men. These men had strange black swellings in the groin and armpit areas that oozed pus and blood. The next symptom was spreading black boils and black splotches on the skin that were caused by internal bleeding. Infected persons suffered from severe pain and died within a few days. Strangely, some people did not develop the buboes, but coughed violently, sweated heavily, and died quicker, usually within three days or less of infection. The Black Death had come to Europe.
The Black Death or Bubonic Plague
There is little in history that compares to the effect that the Bubonic Plague, popularly known as the Black Death, had on Medieval Europe. In some areas, the disease killed as much as one-third of the population. It was a disease without a cure, one that struck without warning, and forever altered society. In the early 1980s, there were those who believed that the Black Death had been revisited upon the world in a new form: AIDS. However, the two have very little in common other than their large mortality rates, in-curability, and impact of fear upon society.
Bubonic plague is a disease caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium which infects black rats and various other species of rodents and is maintained within their blood systems. Yersinia pestis is transmitted along the following path:
- Fleas become infected by feeding on the blood of infected rodents
- The infected rodents spread the bacterium as they move from one animal to the next.
- Fleas may also transmit the plague to human hosts, whom, if they fall ill, can in turn infect other humans through bacteria-laden cough droplets.
- As the bacteria invade and multiply in the bloodstream, between two and six days after infection susceptible humans typically begin to fall ill, with the most characteristic initial sign being an inflamed, extremely tender, painful lymph gland-which is known as a "bubo" and gives the disease its name.
- The infection then quickly spreads throughout the body, with the severe and deadly pneumonic form of the disease that ravaged Europe during the Black Death era leading to bacterial infection of the lungs and resulting in an acute respiratory illness that is often associated with the following:
- Extreme fevers
- Labored breathing
- The discharge of bloody sputum
The form of the disease that struck Europe during the mid-1300s became known as the Black Death because of the purplish-black blotches that typically erupted on the skins of victims. At this stage, the disease often leads to a quick but painful and dramatic death in a large proportion of cases
Trade Routes and Black Death
Rumors spread throughout Europe in the summer of 1346 that a terrible pestilence was raging in the Orient. Some 85,000 people were rumored dead in the Crimea. The cause of all this misery was the bacterium Yersinia pestis, that originated on the Mongolian steppes in the stomachs of rats. For some unknown reason the rodent life there was uprooted in the 1330s, and the bacteria, carried by rodents and fleas, came out of the desert and into Mongolian caravans. Moving along the trade routes of the day, the Black Death unleashed itself upon the world.
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