The Rocks Teasure Hunt

The Black Death

Sydney for kids

The Plague Vital Statistics The most infamous health disaster in the Middle Ages and Renaissance was the Outbreak in 1347 of the Black Death, Yersinia pestis, or the Bubonic Plague
When: The plague has been around for thousands of years.  The huge outbreak we know as the Black Death started in Europe in 1347 and kept occurring over the centuries.  The African island of Madagascar experienced outbreaks in the late 1990s.  Antibiotics cure plague victims now.  
Where: The Plague, Black Death, is believed to have first started in central Asia.
Why: Increased trade along Silk Route meant disease was no longer confined to villages.  Ships transported black rats along with precious cargo.  The rats had the infected fleas.  Chroniclers wrote that it began with earthquakes, fire falling from the sky, and plagues of vermin.  The Pope blamed sinful living even though priests and nuns were dying, others blamed it on Jews poisononing wells even though Jews were also dying, some blamed bad smells but noone blamed the real culprit, the blood sucking flea.
How: Inside the flea, bacteria multiplies and blocksoff the flea's throat-like area.  The flea gets increasingly hungry.  When it bites whether rat or human it spits some bacteria out into the bite wound.  This was not discovered until the late 1800s.  But there were two other forms of Plague, pneumonic [passed through air] and septacaemic [blood poisoning if the flea bites directly into blood stream].
What:There were three variants of the plague; bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic
Bubonic variant (the most common) named after the swellings or buboes that appeared.  First symptoms were fever, aching joints, headache and vomiting.  Then Buboes which were big egg or apple sized lumps that appeared in groin, throat or under the armpits, whichever lymph nodes were closest to the flea bite.  These would harden and split open oozing pus and blood and slowly turn black as the flesh died and become septic. Aaagh, Gross! Dead within 4-7 days.  Chances of survival 30-75%
Pneumonic variant caused sufferer to spit up slimy bloody sputum since the lungs were infected.  Often dead within day.  Writers of the time said 'breakfast with their kinfolk and the same night supped with their ancestors in the next world!'.  Chances of survival 95%.  

Septicemic Symptoms were high fevers and skin turning deep shades of purple due to blood clotting throughout the body from blood poisoning.  Chances of survival .........none

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