The Black Plague • Also know as the Black Death. • We now know that the most common form of the Black Death was the Bubonic Plague (still exists today, but very much under control). • How was it spread? • This disease was spread by fleas which lived on the black rat. • The fleas sucked the rat’s blood which contained the plague germs. • When the rat died the fleas jumped on to humans and passed on the deadly disease.
The Black Plague • Plague has three forms: • Bubonic plague (infection of the lymph glands) • Septicemia plague (infection of the blood), • Pneumonic plague (infection of the lungs). • Pneumonic plague can spread from person to person. • Symptoms: • Day 1: swelling on areas of the body that were any where from the size of an egg to an apple. • Day 2: Non-stop vomiting and a high fever. • Day 3: Internal bleeding caused discoloration of the skin. • Day 4: It attacks the nervous system. This caused you to spasm uncontrollably. • Day 5: sometimes the swellings from day 1 would burst, and black liquid (hence the name the Black Death) would pour out. If this happened you usually lived. However, in over 90% of the cases this didn’t happen, and the black liquid caused mass infections and you died painfully.
The Black Plague • Medieval people didn’t know about disease causing germs. • They thought that people’s bodies were poisoned (or that God was punishing us, which is why the renaissance took place immediately following). • Had no clue the plague was spread by rats and fleas. • It didn’t help that they had 0 sanitation back then. • Homes were built so close together, and garbage and human waste were just flung out windows onto the streets. • This is why rats were so common amongst people back then. • Because they noticed people lived when the swellings burst, it made since to them to just drain the swellings in hopes of survival.
The Black Plague • This is called ‘bloodletting.’ • Bloodletting is the process they would use until about 100 years ago to attempt to cure several diseases / infections (it rarely worked). • Some people were blamed for the plague. • Jews actually washed and used their own ‘community’ water wells. • Thus, very few known Jews in each community ever became sick. • People (spurred on by the Catholic Church) then assumed Jews were ‘poisoning’ their water wells. • This lead to a mass genocide of Jewish people, as they were often rounded up and killed for their alleged ‘crimes.’
The Black Plague • In the end: • 35% of the world’s population was killed off by the plague. • That was just over 38 million people back then (more than any disease before or since) • In today’s world, that would be roughly 2.5 billion people (35%) • Or 1 of everyone 10 Americans. • The eventual killing off of local rats, and the closure of most sea ports is what lead to the decline of the Black Plague.