Black Death-worst catastrophe in recorded history
Black Death, also called “Pestilence”, is a devastating epidemic of bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. It arrived in Europe on October 1347 when 12 ships from the Black Sea docked in the Sicilian port of Messina. Most aboard were either dead or dying with black boils that oozed blood and pus. Family members who gathered at the port to meet them also got infected just before the Sicilian authorities ordered the fleet of the death ships out of the harbor. It was too late. In the next five years, the Black Death would kill 30% to 60% of Europe’s population.
Where did it originate? How did it spread?
The Black Death originated in China and inner Asia that killed the army of Kipchak khan Janibeg when he was trying to blockade the Genoese trading port of Kaffa in 1347. He catapulted plague-infested corpses into the town to infect his enemies.
Trying to escape from the plague, the Genoese ships carried the epidemic westward and spread inland, affecting Sicily (1347), North Africa, mainland Italy, Spain, and France (1348); and Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, and the Low Countries (1349). It has reached the extreme north of England, Scotland, Scandinavia, and the Baltic countries in 1350.
The Black Death symptoms begin with swellings- most commonly in the groin, neck and armpit; it was as big as an egg, while others had as big as an apple. Blood and pus oozed out of these swellings, followed by other unpleasant symptoms-fever, vomiting, diarrhea, terrible aches and pains. Then, in short order, death.
Since they still didn’t know the scientific explanation of this epidemic, a lot of people believed that this was God’s punishment for immorality, selfishness, and blasphemy. That the only cure was to stay away from sinful people. Different beliefs arose, since then, because of unexplainable occurrences.
Plague Doctors, as they were called, wore long heavy leather coats, gloves, boots, and a mask to protect themselves from getting infected with the plague. All covered with wax to provide better protection. Canes, on the other hand, were used to examine the victims without touching them directly.
The mask is half a foot long and shaped like a beak and was filled with different medicinal herbs like melissa (lemon balm), mint, or rose petals which will prevent them from smelling the “bad air”.
Despite the fact that they were of high value, most doctors were inexperienced. Experience, as such, was not even a requirement since one of their duties was to simply count the dead.
Living and the Dead
The plague spread even at a simple touch of an infected person’s clothes. Once infected or showed symptoms of the plague, a person will be home isolated for 40 days. It had, somehow, lessen the number of death but it seems that the plague was immune to antibiotics and other medications. Dead bodies were burned in graveyard pits to stop the plague from spreading.
Yersinia Pestis (Black Death)
Being one of the deadliest and most devastating diseases mankind has ever seen, Yersinia Pestis killed a huge number of people since it first broke out. This has caused three major world pandemics in recorded history.
Yersinia Pestis was not discovered yet when Black Death wiped out half of Europe’s population. It was only until 1894 by a French Bacteriologist.
Alexander Yersin, a French Physician, and Bacteriologist discovered the causative bacillus that caused the massive death in Europe. He discovered it when he was in Hongkong to investigate the outbreak of bubonic plague which was later named after him in his honor.