Back and Black

No, not the song. . . The Bubonic plague or “Black Death” has been relatively dormant since it’s last extensive outbreak, 1300-1500’s. Although it did have an outbreak in the late 1800’s it was not nearly as devastating as the first two. However, the plague has been observed to have infected more than 20,000 people from 2000-2009 (Tia Ghose). So is the Black Death really back?

The Bubonic plague is caused by a bacterium that travels by flees, which freeload on rodents. When the rodent died of the plague, the flee would search elsewhere for their next blood-meal. Because the source of the plague was unknown and hygiene in the middle ages was not good it killed over half the population in Europe. 75 million people died in Western Europe alone (Simon Shama). Although the plague in the middle ages was devastating, during the modern plague (late 1800-1900’s) it was much more controlled because they were able to actually discover the cause and effectively lessen the chances of the spread. Nowadays, with improved hygiene, knowledge about rodents and medicine the mortality rate of the bubonic plague has dropped dramatically. With the emergence of antibiotics, the plague is fairly treatable. In fact, out of 56 cases in the US during the time period 2000-2009 only seven died (Ghose).

The modern day plague tends to affect more rural areas or less developed areas where there is exposure to rodents and animals. For example: out of the 20,000 affected in the first decade of the 21st century, 10,000 were from the Congo, 7,000 in Madagascar, and 1,300 in Zambia. However, the US also suffered from 56 infections

(Ghose). These infections tend to happen in the west coast US where there are more rural areas. A few infections have been traced back to squirrels in national parks such as Yosemite. In 2015, areas in California, Colorado and New Mexico have seen outbreaks in 2015, resulting in two deaths in Colorado (Emily Cohn). The Disease Daily released their input as to why the sudden increase in outbreaks has occurred. All of the reported infections had occurred west of the 100th meridian, which happens to be the accepted boundary for prairie dogs (Cohn).

This image I found on was drawn of a Plague doctor in the Medieval era. This relates to the other sources because this exhibits how little was actually known about the plague. At the time a doctor would dress like this for protection, carrying herbs they thought would clear the air.

For me as a Minnesotan I find this interesting because it is important to keep in mind that this very once extremely dangerous disease is still around and can still kill people. This is important to me so that I pay attention and make good decisions so that I don’t become then next outbreak.

Contemporary Source:

Primary Source:

Other Sources:


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