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The Black Death (Europe, 1347–1353)

The Black Death (Europe, 1347–1353)

The bacterial disease known as the bubonic plague is one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the history of mankind.

History

Keywords

plague, rat, bacterium, flea, disease, epidemic, fever, destruction, infection, risk of infection, headache, cough, incubation, bleeding, 14th century, Europe, chain of infection, plague doctor, _javasolt, history, European, lymph node, lung, symptom, doctor, death, population, Middle Ages

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Questions

  • When did the most devastating plague epidemic in human history take place?
  • Where is the plague thought to have originated?
  • From which peninsula did the plague spread towards Europe?
  • Which part of Europe did the plague reach first?
  • What was used to prevent plague infection?
  • What was NOT used to prevent plague infection?
  • What kind of pathogen causes the plague?
  • What was the primary vector of the plague?
  • What was not a link in the chain of infection?
  • What did plague doctors not typically wear?
  • What was a commonly used nickname for plague doctors?
  • Who were plague doctors hired by?
  • What did the beak on the leather mask of plague doctors not contain?
  • How did plague doctors treat their clothing in order to prevent infection?
  • Which of the following is the pathogen of the plague?
  • Who discovered the pathogen of the plague?
  • In which century was the pathogen of the plague discovered?
  • Which of the following is not a type of plague?
  • What percentage of the European population fell victim to the Black Death?
  • Which part of Europe was not heavily affected by the Black Death?
  • Which type of plague has the highest mortality rate?
  • Is it true that the pathogen of plague retains the crystal violet stain used in the Gram staining method?
  • Through which trade route did the pathogen of the plague probably reach Europe?
  • What shape is the Yersinia Pestis bacterium?

Scenes

Spread

  • Vienna
  • Brugge
  • Buda
  • Bergen
  • Bordeaux
  • Feodosia (Kaffa)
  • Florence
  • Gdansk
  • Genoa
  • Kiev
  • Klaipeda
  • Cologne
  • Constantinople
  • London
  • Lyon
  • Malmö
  • Marseille
  • Messina
  • Moscow
  • Naples
  • Paris
  • Prague
  • Rome
  • Sevilla
  • Tunis
  • Valencia
  • Venice
  • Warsaw

Plague is one of the most deadly infectious diseases. The most disastrous pandemic in human history was the 1347-1353 plague in Europe, known as the Black Death.

The pandemic probably originated in China and spread via the Silk Road to the Crimean Peninsula, just a short leap from the Mediterranean region, from where it arrived in Europe with the fleas of infected rats carried by Italian trading vessels. It could spread easily in the continent because of the flourishing trade of the time.

It spread from southern Europe to the western, central, northern and eastern regions of the continent. It claimed many people’s lives and, according to estimates, about 30-60% of the European population fell victim to the Black Death.

It is a shocking fact that world population, which had been showing a more or less steady increase, dropped by almost a hundred million during the 14th century, due mostly to the plague.

Mortality rate

  • Vienna
  • Brugge
  • Buda
  • Bergen
  • Bordeaux
  • Feodosia (Kaffa)
  • Florence
  • Gdansk
  • Genoa
  • Kiev
  • Klaipeda
  • Cologne
  • Constantinople
  • London
  • Lyon
  • Malmö
  • Marseille
  • Messina
  • Moscow
  • Naples
  • Paris
  • Prague
  • Rome
  • Sevilla
  • Tunis
  • Valencia
  • Venice
  • Warsaw

Links of the chain

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium (originally called Pasteurella pestis). It is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium (bacillus). It was discovered in 1894 by
Alexandre Yersin, a bacteriologist at the Pasteur institute in Paris, France.

The Yersinia pestis bacterium appears to have evolved in East Africa, from another bacterium, called Yersinia pseudotuberculosis; and spread around the globe later.

The chain of infection caused by the Yersinia pestis (bacteriumratflea – human) was first described by Paul-Louis Simond, another biologist from the Pasteur Institute, a few years after the discovery of the bacterium.

The primary vector of the infection, that is, the transmitting agent is the flea. Fleas suck the blood of infected rats and thereby the bacteria enter their intestinal system. Here the bacteria secrete an enzyme called coagulase, and a biofilm consisting of clotted blood and bacteria forms in the pharynx of the flea. The blocked pharynx creates a feeling of hunger and as the flea bites more to satisfy its urge to feed, it transmits the bacteria into the blood circulation of the host (humans).

Chain of infection

  • sylvatic cycle - The portion of the transmission cycle of the pathogen that takes place in nature. It occurs in or affects wild animals.
  • fleas
  • rodents
  • urban cycle - The portion of the transmission cycle that takes place in urban environment. It affects urban or domestic animals.
  • humans (bubonic plague)
  • humans (secondary pneumonic plague) - It develops from bubonic plague and can then be transmitted from human to human by the inhalation of infective droplets.
  • humans (primary pneumonic plague)

Symptoms

Bubonic plague

Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague. The name comes from the swollen lymph nodes (buboes) that develop after the infection. The buboes contain blue-black pus, which eventually burst. Those who get infected with bubonic plague suffer from high fever and extreme pain. The disease is transmitted by the bites of infected fleas.

Pneumonic plague

Pneumonic plague is a type of plague that is transmitted from human to human by the inhalation of infective droplets. This is called primary pneumonic plague. The bacterium can also infect the nervous system. Pneumonic plague causes pulmonary oedema and respiratory failure. Patients eventually die because of suffocation. The mortality rate of untreated pneumonic plague is extremely high, about 95%.

Septicemic plague

Septicemic plague is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria entering the blood stream and multiplying there. It can be the result of direct infection of the blood (primary septicemic plague), or it can develop as a complication of bubonic and pneumonic plague (secondary septicemic plague). It causes high fever, and uncontrolled bleeding into the skin and internal organs. Without treatment, a circulatory collapse occurs. The mortality rate of untreated septicemic plague is almost 100%.

Plague doctor

  • wide-brimmed hat
  • cowl
  • garlic - Plague doctors were constantly chewing it in order to prevent infection.
  • wooden stick - In order to avoid direct contact with the sick, plague doctors used sticks.
  • mask - The beak of the scary leather mask contained incense, herbs and flowers against bad smells.
  • pomander - A spherical case carried on a chain, containing a ball made of fragrant herbs or perfumes such as ambergris or musk.
  • leather gloves
  • overcoat - Clothes were made of materials easy to clean and were impregnated with oils and fragrances.
  • leather boots

The plague doctor costume was probably invented by Charles de Lorme, chief physician of Louis XIII, in the 17th century. They were also called 'beak doctors' because of their masks. Plague doctors were hired mostly by plague-infected cities.

Most people tried to avoid getting infected by plague by isolating themselves or simply fleeing to other areas. Those infected with plague were put into quarantine. However, there were some who attempted to cure them. These 'plague doctors' hermetically sealed their body from the outside world, which probably protected them from infection.

Their clothing included hoods and wide-brimmed hats and their faces were protected by beak-shaped masks with eye openings covered with glass. They also wore leather gloves and easily washable, protective clothes, which were impregnated with oils.

Such clothing was necessary as, according to contemporary belief, plague spread in the air via bad smells. Also, people believed in the magical and protecting power of scents. This is why the 'beak' of the scary-looking leather mask contained a mixture of incense, herbs and flowers against bad smells.

Of course the sick could not be cured this way, but the plague doctors did relieve their pain to some extent. They could slow the spread of the plague with their medical advice and measures relating to hygiene. Their task also included counting the deceased.

Animation

  • sylvatic cycle - The portion of the transmission cycle of the pathogen that takes place in nature. It occurs in or affects wild animals.
  • fleas
  • rodents
  • urban cycle - The portion of the transmission cycle that takes place in urban environment. It affects urban or domestic animals.
  • humans (bubonic plague)
  • humans (secondary pneumonic plague) - It develops from bubonic plague and can then be transmitted from human to human by the inhalation of infective droplets.
  • humans (primary pneumonic plague)
  • wide-brimmed hat
  • cowl
  • garlic - Plague doctors were constantly chewing it in order to prevent infection.
  • wooden stick - In order to avoid direct contact with the sick, plague doctors used sticks.
  • mask - The beak of the scary leather mask contained incense, herbs and flowers against bad smells.
  • pomander - A spherical case carried on a chain, containing a ball made of fragrant herbs or perfumes such as ambergris or musk.
  • leather gloves
  • overcoat - Clothes were made of materials easy to clean and were impregnated with oils and fragrances.
  • leather boots
  • Vienna
  • Brugge
  • Buda
  • Bergen
  • Bordeaux
  • Feodosia (Kaffa)
  • Florence
  • Gdansk
  • Genoa
  • Kiev
  • Klaipeda
  • Cologne
  • Constantinople
  • London
  • Lyon
  • Malmö
  • Marseille
  • Messina
  • Moscow
  • Naples
  • Paris
  • Prague
  • Rome
  • Sevilla
  • Tunis
  • Valencia
  • Venice
  • Warsaw

Narration

Plague is one of the most deadly infectious diseases. The most disastrous pandemic in the course of human history was the plague that raged through Europe between 1347 and 1353 and was known as the Black Death. It probably reached the Crimean Peninsula through the Silk Road and arrived in the Mediterranean region on Italian trading vessels. It could spread easily through the continent because of the flourishing trade of the time. It was only the Kingdom of Poland that was not heavily affected.

The Black Death claimed the lives of many, and, according to estimates, about 30–60% of the European population perished. The population only rebounded and reached its previous level after about 150 years.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium (originally called Pasteurella pestis). The rod-shaped bacterium was discovered in 1894 by Alexandre Yersin, a bacteriologist from the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Plague was transferred from port to port by infected rats from trading vessels. When fleas bit and sucked the blood of infected rats, the bacteria entered their intestinal system. Newer and newer bites led to more and more hosts becoming infected; fleas thereby became the primary vector of the infection.

There are three main types of plague: bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic. The bubonic plague acquired its name from the swollen, bluish black lymph nodes (or buboes) that produced pus.

Most people tried to fight against plague by isolating themselves or simply fleeing to other areas; however, there were some who attempted to cure those infected with plague. The plague doctor costume was invented in the 17th century by Charles de Lorme, the chief physician to Louis XIII. Plague doctors wore hoods and wide-brimmed hats, and their faces were covered with a mask that had glass eye openings. They also wore gloves and easily washable, protective clothes which had previously been soaked in different oils.

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