Facts about Black death

15 Black death facts

The Great Plague

Although the disease produced black necrotic tissue, people living at the time of the pandemic referred to it as "the great plague," "the great scourge," or "the great mortality. The term "Black Death" did not appear until the 16th century, some two hundred years after it first struck Europe.

A mistranslation of the Latin name for the epidemic, atra mors, may also have contributed to the name.

Black death
The Black Death pandemic swept through Asia, Europe, and the northern coasts of Africa between 1346 and 1353.

The exact toll of the disease is unknown, with estimates ranging from 75 to 200 million people killed.

It was the second plague epidemic to sweep through Europe.

The first was the Justinian Plague, which broke out in 451 and continued in successive waves until the 8th century, killing a total of about 60% of the European population. From the last wave of plague in the 50s of the 8th century until the outbreak of the Black Death, no major epidemics occurred in Europe.

The plague was caused by the bubonic plague bacillus (Yersinia pestis), which was unknown to physicians of the time and for which there were no drugs.

The final argument in favor of this theory was provided by a 2010 study published in PLOS Pathogens, which analyzed proteins and DNA from mass graves from the time of the pandemic. The results clearly pointed to Y. pestis.

To date, the source of the outbreak has not been identified.

The plague is thought to have arrived in Europe from eastern or central Asia. The first documented cases were recorded in Crimea in 1347, where the plague most likely came via the Silk Road. The bacterium was spread by fleas that fed on the blood of rats that traveled aboard Genoese ships carrying slaves from Crimea to Europe.

It is likely that climate changes in the region were responsible for the development of the plague in Asia.

Increasing droughts caused the rodents living there to seek food sources closer to human settlements. Along with the rodents came oriental rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis), which were the primary vectors of the disease.

An Oriental rat flea infected with plague bacteria quickly experienced a blockage of the anterior intestine due to the biofilm produced by the bacterium.

The blockage of the digestive tract increased the insect's hunger and activity. While feeding on the host, the plague bacilli entered its system and the infection spread.

Through maritime trade routes, the plague first reached the Mediterranean region, from where it spread to coastal cities.

From there, it spread to central and northern Europe in the following years, mainly via flies. In the final years of 1352-1353, the plague raged in the areas of present-day Estonia, Finland, and northwestern Russia.

The first European city to fall victim to the Black Death was Constantinople.

The plague arrived there in the summer of 1347 and killed, among others, the 13-year-old son of the then Byzantine Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos.

Although until recently it was believed that the Black Death stayed away from the areas of Poland and the Bohemia, there is no grain of truth in this story.

Poland and Bohemia were not isolated places, so both insects and travelers moved through these areas just as they did in other regions. This misunderstanding may have been caused by the lack of written sources from this time. Since the plague reached Germany between 1348 and 1350, infections in the Polish and Czech areas surely began a few weeks later.

The plague did not spare Africa and Asia Minor.

After Africa, it probably spread from the port of Alexandria, rolling through areas of Syria, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula to Yemen, which it reached in 1351. In 1348, it reached Mecca with infected pilgrims.

Eyewitnesses of the time describe the scourge of the Black Death in three possible variations.

The first was swollen lymph nodes in the groin area, the second was a lung disease that caused difficulty breathing and instant death. The third manifestation of the plague was the appearance of blisters under the armpits. In each case, the disease was extremely deadly. Every variant of the disease was accompanied by a high fever that could reach 41°C (106 °F).

Even after the plague was defeated, it reappeared in various regions of Europe with varying degrees of intensity.

After the period of great geographical discoveries, the range of the Black Death also increased, causing local outbreaks of the disease around the world as late as the early 19th century.

Medieval Europe was powerless against disease. Its origin was attributed to supernatural phenomena.

It was theorized that "bad air," contaminated by the conjunction of planets, was responsible for the plague. Muslim scholars, on the other hand, claimed that the pandemic was a "martyrdom and mercy" from God, guaranteeing the faithful a place in paradise, although it was considered a punishment for infidels.

The term quarantine was coined as a result of the Black Death.

Although the first isolations were used in ancient times, the term trentine appeared in 1377 near Ragusa, when the crews of arriving ships were forced to wait in isolation for 30 days before going ashore. In 1448, the Venetian Senate passed a law extending the isolation period to 40 days (quarantine).

Both travelers and national minorities were blamed for the spread of the epidemic.

Beggars, lepers, Jews, and visitors from distant lands were the most frequent targets of the angry crowds.

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