The Black Plague: Causes, Symptoms, and Spread

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About this sample


Words: 952 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Words: 952|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Black Plague had numerous titles, such as the Black Death, Bubonic Plague, and the Dark Plague. The Black Plague hit with speed and no thought for whom it hit. This disease was the most fatal catastrophe in the past to the mid 14th century, killing approximately twenty-five million people within only five years (1347-1352). The Black Plague turned rampant and eradicated the population of Europe. This plague spread through every single class and killed billions of peasants, lords, and queens. It impacted every aspect of life in Europe and all people during this time. Differing beliefs were common and there was no single intense belief.

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Some of these beliefs were that the black death was a natural disaster while others believed it caused by human error. After the initial frenzied burst of shoe-term piety and revival, the Black Plague caused long-term harm to religious institutions. During these plague outbreaks, some thought God was punishing humans for their sins. As a result, people publicly whipped themselves until they bled. Some infected people tried to hide in the holy land. Others despaired, and published that God did not live, or that He had perished, or He was unconscious, or He had made appearing on humans. It was also believed that the plague was caused by the lack of food, water, and shelter. Farmers and lower class citizens were the first to be infected by the black death. Many people died of this disease, but most people died because of poor hygiene and lack of sanitation. The symptoms of this disease included: fever, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea. Almost always, this was followed by death.

To catch the disease, people observed that all it took was brief physical contact with the clothing of someone who was sick to pass the disease on to another. Some doctors insisted that it was the spirit leaving the body of the deceased that infected others as it passed by. Few areas other than some islands cut off from the rest of Europe by the sea made it through the pandemic plague-free. The rest of the population was not so fortunate. The bacteria infiltrated every European city’s defenses and many who appeared perfectly healthy one day could be dead a few days later. It was uncommon, though possible, for someone to survive a week or two before he or she died. The plague reduced livestock as well and countless pigs, cows, chickens, goats, and sheep also died a brutal death. While many European areas had a death sum of around 30%, 90% of the Italian city Florence perished. Sometimes, the bodies of the deceased remained where they had died since there were not enough people still living to bury them. Thousands of French villages in addition to areas in other locations were left without a single remaining soul. The Black Death had easily transformed them into ghost towns. In some instances, nature eventually took over, and areas that people once called home were reclaimed by the surrounding forest. It took aerial photography following the end of World War I to rediscover these locations as places where men, women, and children once lived.

Not only did people not understand the plague’s causes or modes of transmission, but there were also countless failures in how those in the medical field attempted to treat it. Yersinia pestis, the bacterium behind the Black Death, or bubonic plague, is highly contagious. It can also be spread in many ways. Many believe that in its later stages it had the ability to morph into an airborne strain that could be passed on to a new host via a simple sneeze or cough. However, all strains, airborne or those in the more initial stages that are not, are believed to have been transferred through flea or lice bites. In addition, many animals along with countryside livestock serve as hosts for the bacterium and blood-sucking pests. Examples are creatures like squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and mice. However, many in the scientific field have argued that by far the worst contributor to the spread of the Black Death was the rat and its flea. Part of the reason for this belief is that rats have been observed to develop symptoms quite similar to those in people, and in cases of the modern-day plague many people with the sickness had accompanying bites from fleas. Recent outbreaks often follow what’s known as ‘rat falls’ as well, or when the rodents die off in record amounts for whatever reason. Thus, the most prevalent theory is that the Black Death all began when rats with the plague died and their fleas then looked for more blood in another readily available source, which would at times be human. Upon being bitten by the contaminated flea this person would then be exposed to the deadly bacteria. Seemingly in support of this theory, ships during the mid-1300s were commonly infested with the furry rodents who thrived in their dark, moist environment. And following the death ships’ arrival in Sicily the plague continued to spread further following a trade route pattern, as it had previously in Asia, to other port locations throughout Europe and as far down as North Africa.

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After the Plague had dialed down, scientists studied the remains of the European population at the time and determined that only 0.2% had a gene that offered them any form of immunity. The other 99.8% had none. Since so many of those who were susceptible to the plague died from it, they did not pass their genes on further to the following generations. Many of those who did have the gene lived on to reproduce. This could be why many people now have a 15% chance of having some resistance to the disease.  

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The Black Plague: Causes, Symptoms, And Spread. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from
“The Black Plague: Causes, Symptoms, And Spread.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022,
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