The Modern Black Plague

So for my first source, I found a credible news story from the website/magazine The Atlantic. It talks about how the Black Plague is still around today in countries like Zambia, India, Malawi, Algeria, China, and Peru.  The article then explains how to prevent the plague from spreading, some symptoms and finally closing with very eerie quote from Dr. Tim Brooks who is an “an expert in infectious diseases at Public Health England.” He states that the plague only “needs an opportunity. It’s still there. It’s still the one that we used to have, it still has all the power and the threat that it used to have, and it’s only a different set of circumstances that’s keeping it in its place. Plague has what it takes. Plague can do it again.”

The second source I found is a primary source and is the writings of Giovanni Boccaccio, an “Italian writer from Florence” who wrote at length of the Black Plague during the 14th century. His own mother was killed by the Black Plague and he wrote his famous book, The Decameron. His book was centered on the Black Plague and included many of his experiences with the plague. Some themes of his writings are mass burials, the breakdown of the social order and the signs of impending death. Not very pleasant stuff.

The most obvious thing they have in common is that they are about the Black Plague. They both describe the different symptoms of the plague and the effects it has on the body. Another interesting similarity that the sources share is how the Black Plague affects the infrastructure of a society.

The issue that these two articles raise for me begins with a startling statistic towards the beginning of the news article, “between 1,000 and 2,000 cases [Black Plague] each year are reported to the WHO, though the true number is likely much higher.” I think that in our modern age of medicine and healthcare we should have wiped out the plague that killed almost “60 percent of the people in medieval London and Florence.” Just in 2013, an outbreak of the disease killed 32 people out of the 84 suspected cases. I don’t see why the Ebola outbreak got so much attention but this does not. Not only do un-developed countries lack the antibiotics and medical facilities needed to help those infected with the Black Plague, there are concerns that “the plague could fuel bio-terrorist attacks.”

I think Minnesotans should be aware of the Black Plague and its presence today. I feel that many people think that its gone and hasn’t been around since the 14th century. The Ebola outbreaks that occurred in the last year got national news attention and I feel that the Black Plague should also get that. Giovanni Boccaccio wrote “what is even worse and nearly incredible is that fathers and mothers refused to see and tend their children, as if they had not been theirs.” This could still be happening in third world countries that are still infected with the Black Plague and we don’t even know about it.


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