The Bubonic Plague- A Dark History and Forewarning?

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It seems that as of late there have been a plethora of threats to the world we inhabit. Whether one is referring to the escalating climate changes, shrinking of natural resources( e.g. water in California), extreme natural disasters or viruses seem to be coming back with a vengeance, one thing is clear-all of these phenomenons are interconnected. Another lesson to learn amongst all of these happenings is that there have been great examples of how little control we actually have over mother natural at times-not to be morbid. Nonetheless humankind has come a long way in combating the ugliest of ugly in this world. Yet again, there is not much we can control. In fact earlier this month, a young high school boy, a native of Colorado died of the bubonic plague. While it is very saddening to hear of such news, it is quite fearful to hear of such a horrific disease be able to make its way into the news after it killed about 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages.

The Bubonic Plague also known as the “Black Death”, was a serious disease that arrived to Europe from ships that originated from the Far-East also known as Asia. These trade-ships were the vessel of transferring the disease across two major continents. According to legend once the ships arrived, greeters were both astonished and horrified to see that many of the people aboard the ships had suffered horribly or already dead from what was coined the “Great Pestilence”. The Plague is caused by a bacterial disease called Yersinia pestis which primarily affects rodents. These rodents are then bitten by fleas which can transmit the disease from rodent to rodent. These infected fleas can then (which) they did bite humans and thus helped propagate the resulting 25 million deaths across Europe.Once bitten, the disease phenotype consisted of swollen lymph nodes (bubo), as well as pus filled spots that turned black towards the end of the incubation period.  While this was a catastrophic event in human history, a lot of factors played a role into the severity of the situation. The lack of scientific advancement, overcrowding and poor sanitation were crucial in the mortality rate which was extremely high. People just did not know and were very unaware of the real causes until the late 19th century long after the disease ran its course.

As mentioned before, humankind has gone a long way in its ability to handle such surprises in life. Yet a microscopic organism was able to wipe about one third of Europe’s population! While there have been improvements in sanitation, quarantine measures, and international policies regarding emerging and reemerging diseases, the reality is that these disease are becoming more virulent due to other stressors in our environment, most of which are anthropogenic. As overpopulation, lack of sanitation, and understanding of disease transmission were factors that exacerbated the situation, overpopulation, diminishing resources, extensive globalization and climate change are the new stressors, and if we do not take the time to try and work on these factors, another bubonic like outbreak has the potential to come back with a vengeance.


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