Europeans in 1347 were shocked as 12 ships from the Black Sea docked at the Sicilian port of Messina, bringing dead and sick individuals with black boils all around the body. They ordered the vessels to get off the harbor, but it was too late—The Black Death is already knocking at their front door.
The Black Plague, or Black Death, was believed to have killed more than 60% of Europe’s population, particularly in Florence and Rome. Before the said plague, rumors are already circulating about a great pestilence affecting China, India, Persia, Syria, and Egypt until it reached their harbor through pests. No amount of pest control would be enough to cover the infestation that killed millions of people uncontrollably.
So, what caused the spread of this disease?
We are all aware that a certain bacteria called Yersinia Pestis was the reason behind the plague. However, it was said that the bacteria came from parasitic fleas of rodents, particularly the black ones, which affected humans. Trade ships are usually infested with these rodents. These rodents do not die even when these fleas bite them because they serve as a host.
Some experiments have shown that, once the rodent host dies, the flea becomes aggressive and finds another host to feed on. In this case, they see humans as susceptible prey. The first victim of the epidemic died 23 days after acquiring the bacteria, and no one knows exactly how it was transmitted to others. However, many believe that an infected flea bit the person.
Now scientists know that an infestation of rats and other rodents could also have aided in spreading the disease. Many homeowners hire experts in pest control in Sandy, Utah, and cities like New York and Chicago when they find signs of rats in their homes because of the fear of such a disease.
Buboes or swollen lymph nodes that appear around the armpit, neck, and groin once infected, can cause the infected individual to have skin sores which can infect others who encounter him or her. At that time, a cure was not yet known, and very little information was available that would have allowed infected persons to understand how they can infect those around them.
Since most people are not aware of how the bacteria were spread all over the area, they believed that everyone is vulnerable because the bacteria is airborne. This means it can be passed from one person to the other since it is already present in the air people breathe.
However, studies had revealed that when it already infected humans, its bubonic type elevated into a more serious form. Called a pneumonic plague, it affects not only the lymph nodes and skin but also the lungs. Coughed particles transmit the bacteria to another person. When this happens, the affected person will also go through the same agony – developing sores on their skin and scars on their lungs.
There are different claims on how this plague started, but one thing is for sure, this terrifying experience caused great chaos to humanity. Fortunately, recent research studies have now been able to identify its cause and provide a cure.