Black Death

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The epidemic form of the bubonic plague that occurred throughout the Middle Ages and was responsible for the deaths of almost half the population of western Europe is known as the Black Death.

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Bubonic plague

The Black Death, which was also referred to as the Bubonic Plague, was one of the pandemics that caused the most devastation in the history of humanity.

Death toll

It is estimated that between 1347 and 1351, it was responsible for the deaths of anywhere from 75 million to 200 million persons in Europe alone.

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Cause

The bacterium known as Yersinia pestis, which is responsible for causing the disease, is passed on to people through the bites of fleas that have been contaminated with the bacteria and are commonly carried by rats.

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Symptoms

The symptoms of the Black Death often manifested themselves between three to five days of an individual becoming infected with the disease. These symptoms included fever, chills, weakness, and enlarged and painful lymph nodes, sometimes known as buboes. In other instances, the disease was also responsible for pneumonic plague and septicemia, both of which resulted in severe respiratory symptoms and a precipitous drop in health.

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Transmission

It is likely that a combination of variables, including conflict, famine, and population congestion, contributed to the fast spread of the Black Death throughout Europe. In addition to being spread by the biting of fleas, it has been hypothesized that the fact that the bacteria Yersinia pestis may also be spread through airborne droplets contributed to the severity of the pandemic.

How does it spread?

  • When there is an outbreak of plague, both humans and domestic animals that have been bitten by fleas that have come from deceased animals are at risk of catching the disease.
  • When infected with plague, cats typically exhibit severe symptoms and are able to transmit the disease to humans through their coughing, which releases infectious droplets into the air.
  • Dogs have a lower risk of being sick, but they can still introduce fleas that are infected with plague into the house.
  • In addition to being bitten by fleas, humans can become infected if they come into contact with the skin or meat of infected animals.

Treatment

During the medieval time, there were few effective treatments for the Black Death, and as a result, most people who became infected with the sickness passed away within a few short days. The medical professionals of the historical period advocated for a wide range of treatments, including bloodletting, herbal remedies, and even the use of mummified body parts as therapeutic interventions. On the other hand, these treatments were not successful in preventing the further spread of the disease.

Recent advances

Antibiotics, such as streptomycin, doxycycline, and gentamicin, can be used to treat bubonic plague in today's modern times. In addition, actions such as timely identification, isolation of sick individuals, and population control of rats can all assist in preventing the further spread of the disease.

Outbreaks

  • Plague epidemics are still happening in some regions of the world today, despite the fact that the "Black Death" is commonly thought of as a disease that occurred in the past.
  • This is an important fact to keep in mind. In 2019, there were a total of 3248 confirmed cases of plague and 584 fatalities, the majority of which occurred in Africa.
  • As a result, it is of the utmost importance that medical professionals maintain vigilance and be well-versed in the indications and manifestations of the disease, in addition to the necessary methods of treatment and prevention.

References

  1. World Health Organization. (2020). Plague. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/plague
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Plague. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/plague/index.html
  3. Biraben, J. N. (1975). Les hommes et la peste en France et dans les pays européens et méditerranéens. Paris: Mouton.
  4. Gottfried, R. S. (1983). The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe. New York: Free Press.

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