What happened to children during the Black Death?

The Black Death is one of the most famous disease outbreaks starting in Italy near the end of 1347 and then spreading to the rest of Europe. It is believed to have come from an animal epidemic among Asia and being passed on to human blood due to finding a new food source. As trade was being brought over from China, rats infected with fleas were also carried over. They made it over to Europe and created a devastating effect. According to this website, professor Shona Kelly Wray from the University of Missouri-Kansas City wrote, “Historians estimate death tolls of between a third and a half of the European population. For medieval Italy it appears that some urban areas, such as Venice, Florence, and Siena, suffered staggeringly high mortality rates of over 50 percent.”

Family was the heart of medieval Europeans, and sadly during the outbreak it was common for families to abandon one another. They were unraveled because of the Black Death. We can’t exactly determine what happened to the children, but parents who were dying of the plague “often wrote wills in which they provided for the future of their families as well as their own souls” (Wray).

A recent outbreak of the disease two measles happened in Nigeria, killing over 40 children. The children had not been immunized against measles, which is very contagious and can spread through the air. Since 1963, vaccination campaigns were introduced. They reduced 78% of the world’s cases since 2000. “There are still 20 million cases of measles worldwide each year, with 95% of deaths occurring in countries with weak health infrastructures” (healthmap). Now there are over 300 cases and it will just increase if they don’t get help.

These sources relate to each other by both being about a disease plague, but during medieval times there was no way to stop it. In Nigeria however, they don’t have the medications which will continue the measles spreading.

Even though as Minnesotans we don’t have the fear of the measles, we need to realize that plagues are still occurring and some we provide help that can keep from erupting. It is important to know the health of other countries and take precaution even though they may never reach us.

Claire Davis

https://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/teaching-modules/167 (primary source translation)

http://www.healthmap.org/site/diseasedaily/article/two-measles-outbreaks-kill-over-40-children-nigeria-3516 (contemporary source)

http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/case-studies/167?section=primarysources&source=184 (primary source)


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