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In the Medieval Era the Black Plague was more than just a thorn in a lion’s side. During the time, few people ever reached what is now our national life expectancy. The Black Plague’s success rate for fatality still haunts us to this day. The Black Plague, if it came back with a drug resistant strain today, could easily devastate the world, and anyone in it. Likely, it would be similar to Stephen King’s The Stand… except there wouldn’t be a Hollywood left to make it into a movie, nor writers to turn it into a book for a number of years, at least. The Black Plague could easily be considered the worst disease to ever hit mankind. The plague has come to hit Europe and the rest of the world quite hard three times. The Black Plague is still around today, though it is not nearly as fatal as before due to the miracles of modern medicine. “Between 1900 and 2010, 999 confirmed or probable human plague cases occurred in the United States” (CDC). Yes, it is still is around, even in the USA.
The plague in history has come to devastate countries for long periods of time. “The Black Death is thought to have originated in the arid plains of central Asia, where it then travelled along the Silk Road, reaching the Crimea by 1346,” (BBC) the Silk Road being the ancient version of the highway. The Silk Road carried everything from silk and gold to diseases like the plague, usually carried on rats that sneak into cargo being transferred. The three main occurrences of the plague came in the 6th-7th centuries in Constantinople and then in the 1300s in Europe, ending the last major outbreak in Asia and India in the late 1800s. In a way, especially due to the number of ways it has come back, it is almost like the flu on steroids… except luckily it doesn’t tend to come back every year. As a result of the strength of the Black Plague, a “resistance to AIDS” (Damen) is seen in European populations. Europe never seems to get a break, by the early 19th century, the threat of plague had diminished, but it was quickly replaced by a new disease (CBC). Cholera quickly jumped in to become Europe’s next big killer, though back to the Black Plague. When the Black Death hit Europe in the 1300s, it started by spreading through Italy, quickly moving deep into Europe. From the spread comes the true infection.
“It is said that the plague takes three forms” (Horrox), all of which are horrible. One way infects your lungs and makes breathing eventually impossible. If one had the poor luck of getting that, they would die in less than two days. The second form mainly starts under the armpits and spreads. The third (regardless of gender) spreads mainly around the genitals area of the body and still kills you. Some key symptoms of the plague are what helped to lead to its naming, specifically the fact that an infected person’s skin begins to turn black due to gangrene. Gangrene is a condition that happens as tissue gets infected and is improperly treated. It causes the skin to turn various shades of green, until totally dead and black. Another common symptom is identified as buboes. Buboes are similar to zits, accept they are hundreds of times larger and have less ease to open, though they ooze puss and blood when opened. Often, if an infected person’s buboes were to begin to subside, they would survive the plague, though it was rare. “Rats, … are not the cause of Plague” (Damen). Rats, though they are needed for the plague to live, are not the cause, the true cause being parasites on the rats, which cause the infections to spread in areas of rat population. The plague killed about 75-100 million people during the 1300s. That brought the world population of about 450 million down to about 350-375 million. “The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60% of Europe’s total population” (Alchone) an impressive feat not seen since. “It took 150 years for Europe’s population to recover” (Wikipedia). It is horrifying to think about what that must mean. If all of Europe took 150 years to recover from the plague, what would happen if something like the plague came and struck the world today, as it did back then? It would likely be viewed as nature’s population cap, horrible as it may be.
All in all, it is best the plague is nothing like it was before. If there was never any plague, it might be unfathomable the number of people there would be in the world today. So sad it is the day one may actually be one of the few thousand cases of plague a year. Diseases are so terrifying because of the aspect of “what if I get it next?” So, one must not forget to wash! And take care of that rat problem… Then wash again.
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