In the early 1300’s, cargo ships carrying sick and dying shipmates reached parts of western Europe introducing the Black Death Plague. Before they realized the severity of the sickness, it was too late. It swept across Europe wiping out at least one third of the population and driving out thousands of others who would flee their homes and towns to avoid infection. The sickness caused fevers, nausea, chills, headaches, delusions and worst of all swollen and infected lymph nodes throughout the body that would secret a black pus. Thus, the name Black Death Plague was brought to pass.
Throughout history there were three major times that this epidemic would occur on a large scale. First during the 1340’s in western Europe, next in Britain during the 1660’s and lastly escalating through Asia in the 1890’s. These time periods have gone down in history as the most death-dealing events to ever occur as millions of people were killed. In the 14th century alone, the plague is thought to have drastically reduced the world population from about 450 million people down to 350 million. The impact of that was quite significant indeed.
Why is the Black Death Plague research important?
Archaeologists and scientists alike explain that the Black Plague affected the course of history, drastically wiping out large populations, driving others from their homes, and creating devastation in its wake. It is vital to know how the disease spread so rapidly, what brought it on, and how it was transported to so many people. Even during modern day in areas of the world where sanitation and health care is not as advanced as others, epidemics can still affect the population. Madagascar, for example, recently suffered a plague outbreak in October of 2017. Over 700 individuals were hospitalized and 57 were killed. We need to better understand the cause of breakouts of the past and the way it spread so quickly to keep it from recurring.
Rats were originally thought to be blamed.
The theory has long been taught that an overgrown rat population was the reason for such large outspread of the bacteria known as, Yersinia pestis. In a time when sanitation and sewage was a large problem for populated areas throughout Europe and Asia there was an abundance of rats and rodents. However, the mass killing of so many people affected with the bacteria did not seem to have the same effect on rats. Which has caused scientists to wonder, if rats spread the disease to humans than when why did the rat population not get wiped out as well?
Lice and fleas are human parasites that show a higher likelihood of being able to quickly spread such a bacteria from human to human. As it bites a human, the bacteria enters the bloodstream finding its way into the lymph nodes throughout the body. As infection sets in, these lymph nodes become swollen, painful sores. In these times through history that the plague was most prevalent, people lived in close quarters, rarely bathing, not washing clothing and bedding and often times their living quarters and clothing was completely infested with fleas and lice. It seems quite plausible that lice and fleas would have been an easy, rapid way for so much of the population to become infected.