Today when people hear the term “Black Death” it makes people think of medieval villages and castles, with doctors struggling to save who they can and the bodies of the deceased laying in the street. Though some people may think of it differently the main point is that people see plain horror. They hear the words “Black Death” and a majority of people feel grateful that we don’t need to face this disease that killed millions.
However that isn’t quite true, though many people believe that the disease is no longer a threat, they would be surprised to learn that the disease is still around, and it is still infecting people. This year a hiker was infected with the Bubonic plague and it caused a flurry of status updates on Facebook and Twitter. People were freaking out, because they believed that it was the beginning of another surge of plague. Well though true the disease is not dead and can still be infectious, we have discovered ways of treating it today.
But I am getting off track, why is this disease important for us today? Why should we as Minnesotans worry about this disease that is easily treatable? Well the reason for that is because there is evidence that this disease potentially was part of the first every biological weapon ever used. And that this thought of biological weapons is something that every person should be concerned about.
In 1346, the siege of Caffa was underway as the Mongols attempted to gain control of the city. The Italians were holed up in the city with no way to escape without running into direct fire from the surrounding Mongol army. With a stalemate in hand both sides were waiting for something to happen that would change the tide of the battle. Now at this time the Mongols had carried the Bubonic plague with them and it was wreaking havoc on the mongol forces. The Mongols (assumed to do this more to see if the stench would drive the Italians out of the city then actually use it as a weapon) fired the dead bodies of their fallen comrades into the city with the use of catapults. This spread the disease into the city and resulted in a weakening of the forces inside. This event, which was documented by an Italian named Gabriele De’ Mussi, is the first ever use of biological warfare recorded.
Now, today it wouldn’t make much sense to use the bubonic plague as a weapon because we could easily handle the outbreak. But we have found something that could be used to even greater extent today. Ebola, the disease that caused a massive panic last year is currently being tested as to it’s potency as a biological weapon. This is a terrifying thought, though the Mongols didn’t add to the spread of the bubonic plague throughout Europe, what if the weapons created today could do more, what if they lead to another epidemic? We have seen what a disease left to it’s own devices can do, now we should be seriously wondering if it would be a good idea to make these diseases into something more powerful.