The Black Death

The Black Death was a pandemic that took the lives of millions across the world. The Black Death started in China in 1334, it spread easily through the trading routes all the way to Europe, killing entire towns as it spread. The bacterium Yersinia pestis infects small animals like rats and mice, then the fleas from those animals were able to bite and infects humans causing a pandemic that killed millions of people. Once someone was infected their cough could infect others. (Hardman, 2010) The black death was spread so quickly that you might be healthy one day and dead a few days later. It was a horrific death, to say the least. Since it spread and killed so quickly people were unable to remove the dead before becoming infected themselves. (CDC Plague, 2015) The black death is still around today, in June 2018 a 14-year-old boy was diagnosed with the black death in Idaho. (Bever, 2018) Thanks to Alexander Fleming and his discovery of antibiotics the black death is now treatable.

The origin of the black death was from China and Asia, the army of Kipchak Khan Janibeg was infected with the black death while they were attacking the trading port of Kaffa. Janibeg’s army was dwindling from the plague so he decided to catapult the dead bodies of his army into the town to infect them as well. (Encyclopedia Britannica Black Death, 1998) Ships leaving Kaffa carried the plague to Mediterranean ports, infecting places like Spain, Italy, Germany, France and many others. A ship leaving from Calais carried the plague to England and soon the plague was in London where is spread rapidly and then spread throughout England. People in cities were affected more than those in the countryside where the population was not as dense, about 60% of the population died. (Encyclopedia Britannica Black Death, 1998)

The Black Death has three classifications. There is the bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic. The bubonic plague is spread by a flea bite. The symptoms for bubonic are described as a sudden onset of fever, chills, headaches, weakness, and swelling of the Lymph nodes. The bacteria start to grow in the lymph nodes and spread to other parts of the body. (CDC Plague, 2015) Septicemic is also spread by flea bites but it can come from touching an infected animal or from not getting treatment for the bubonic plague. The symptoms are an extreme weakness, fever, chills, stomach pains and shock. If untreated the skin of the extremities may start turning black and it begins to die. Pneumonic develops from not being treated for bubonic and /or septicemic, or by breathing in infectious droplets, making it easily transmitted from person to person. The symptoms are a headache, fever, chest pains, coughing, and sudden onset of pneumonia. Pneumonic is the most dangerous and is the only one that can spread from person to person. (CDC Plague, 2015)

In the fourteenth century, there was not very much they could do to treat the sick, encountering an infected person almost insured your death. Doctors tried treating patients with herbs and salves to ease their pain. They tried bloodletting using leeches or scalpels, but their patients only died faster because of blood loss. (Hardman, 2010) Doctors during the plague carried a rod to keep people at a distance and often wore a bird beak mask, the beak was filled with herbs, perfumes, and substances to filter the air and help with the smell. They also wore a hat with goggles and a long gown made of leather or heavy material to protect themselves from infection. (CDC Plague, 2015) The Black Plague lasted in Europe from 1347 to 1351 killing around 25 million people. Europe did not reach its pre-plague population again until the sixteenth century. (Encyclopedia Britannica Black Death, 1998)

Since antibiotics were invented the Black Death is not commonly found in most places. In the U.S. no cases of the Black Death had been reported for over 20 years until June 2018 case when the fourteen-year-old contracted it.