Ebola and the Black Death

Ebola Virus and the Black Death

By: Alexandra Carlson

I chose to focus my topic on the plague from the 14th century and for my current news article I found a story on the Ebola virus. The Ebola virus started to spread from Sierra Leone in February 2014. The virus spread outwards of West Africa to other parts of the world. Scientists and doctors have been looking at the deadly disease to see how it evolved and the pattern that arose when it traveled.

The Ebola virus spread across ten countries killing at least 11,323 people with 28,646 reported cases. The virus was the largest and worst epidemic in the history of West Africa. The doctors who are now studying the virus believe that thousands of more people were infected but did not get treatment. The doctors found that some people in rare cases had the disease per a blood test but showed no symptoms. A study found that 27% of the infections were mild. The people who had the virus but not the symptoms still had the same post disease symptoms that the other survivors got.

By studying the virus, we now know that it was spread by human to human contact. One of the doctors who was in Sierra Leone said that he thinks there were more than 50,000 transmissions of Ebola. The countries in Africa are known to have limited health care which is why it spread so fast. There are still cases of Ebola nearly two years later but the outbreak has been contained. The studies surrounding the virus and how it works and spreads is helping doctors and scientists look for cures and tells them about human contact.

The primary source about the past that I used is a peer reviewed article from History Today about the black death. The black death, or the Bubonic Plague, was a great plague in 1347 that spread across Europe. The plague acted like the Ebola virus, being transmitted through human contact. The source of the plague has been argued among scientists and historians but it is believed to have been brought to Europe on a boat with rodents that carried it.

The black death killed an estimate of 50 million people, more than half of Europe’s population at the time. Just like in West Africa, the plague spread and there was no cure. The plague infected and killed people within 23 days on average. The plague started in 1347 and lasted three years. Any time that a new epidemic arises, scientists always go back to looking at how the great plague started because it was the largest recorded plague in the world at the time. Scientists have been using the DNA of the plague to search for cures to other diseases, like what is being done to the Ebola virus.


McKay, Betsy. “Study Suggests Ebola Outbreak Was More Widespread.”  The Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal, 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/study-suggests-ebola-outbreak-was-more-widespread-1479165197

Benedictow, Ole J. “The Black Death.” History Today 55.3 (2005): 42-49. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.



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