Facts from the period of fear, deaths, and gruesomeness that brought down the world population by more than 40% – within half a decade.
The city of Kaffa, Italy, least expected to welcome home an obscure fatal disease instead of their merchants in around 1347. Such exposure to the disease-causing bacteria – Yersenia Pestis – and its flashing spread in the coming years paved the way to the deadliest pandemic ever.
The disease, earlier referred to as “The Pestilence” or “The great mortality,” is most popularly known as “The Black Death.” Enlisted below are some of the most interesting facts about the plague of death (the black death):
Fact #1: The reason behind calling it the “Black” death
However philosophically convincing it might sound, the name Black Death does not come from the darkness of death. The plague, specifically bubonic plague, caused blackened boils that oozed blood and pus. This was also the main symptom besides vomits of blood, high fever, and others. The name Black Death was coined considering the blisters created.
Fact #2: Dogs remained immune
Despite causing more than 50 million human deaths and major loss of livestock and other animals, dogs were marked safe. Dogs are immune to plague bacteria. Such a mechanism helped their bodies remain unaffected by the disease to a great extent. However, they were still a carrier of the fleas – the major transmitter.
Fact #3: Single bacteria, three forms
The plague had three major forms or levels. The bubonic plague was the initial contact of bacteria with the skin and gradually the lymph nodes. It caused the blood and pus oozing boils. The incubation period varied from one to seven days.
The pneumonic plague happened when the bacteria reached the lungs. It caused blood vomits and also signaled the chances of death within 24 hours if not treated. The last is the septicemic plague, which signifies the contamination of bacterium Y. Pestis into the blood. At this stage, it becomes incurable.
Fact #4: ‘Ring-a-ring-a-roses’ depicts the plague
Published in 1881, the nursery rhyme is said to be of the era of the black death. Roses referring to the bruises/boils and poises – some preventive measures. Atishoo being the sneezes (way of transmission), and we all fall down – death.
Fact #5: The origin of the word “Quarantine”
A word so commonly used during the pandemic of covid-19 comes from the deadliest pandemic – Black Death. Due to its highly contagious nature, the disease forced people to stay at home with minimal physical interaction with others.
Fact #6: Bathing was frowned upon
Bathing was believed to upset the gods’ natural order and hence worsen an affected person. With negligible knowledge about the origin or treatment of the disease, every explanation echoed logic.
It was also believed that bathing would open the pores, helping the bacteria exit the body and infect a healthy person. Therefore, perfumes and cologne were highly used during the time.
Fact #7: Means of warfare
Being destructive and untreatable to such an extent made the bacteria a perfect weapon for biological warfare. When the first deaths happened in Kaffa, they actually threw the affected corpses to neighboring places.
The plague has never hovered off completely. However, thanks to the antibiotics, we can now reduce its fatality to a great extent. The black plague was not the first pandemic in the history of humankind. However, it was the deadliest one. The distress caused by tens of millions of deaths by an incurable fatal disease constantly spreading is agonizing.