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The Black Death

The Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most severe
plagues in its time. I am going to talk about the Black Death, which
is also known as The Black Plague and The Bubonic Plague. The main
area I will cover is What the affects of the Black Plague was and how is

The presenting symptoms of the Black Death
are shivering, vomiting, headaches, giddiness, an intolerance to light,
pain in the back and limbs, and a white coating on the tongue. A
fever of between 103 and 106 occurs immediately. Within 24 hours
coughing starts, then becomes spitting up blood. The plague is an acute
disease, meaning it normally doesn’t last a long time. Also, if you
recover from having it you will be immune to it for the rest of your life.

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The Black Death is caused by the infectious
agent Yersinia Pestis, also known as Pasteurella Pestis. Yersinia Pestis
is a bacteria. There are two types of bacteria cells, gram-negative
and gram-positive. Yersinia Pestis is gram-negative. This makes antibiotics
less effective on the plague because gram-negative bacteria have a lipopolysaccharide
layer over their walls that add extra protection.

The lymphatic system is the system most
greatly affected by the Black Death. Plague victims are notorious
for having large bumps on their body called “buboes”. These are in fact
swollen lymph nodes filled with puss. When healthy, the lymph nodes
are soft and can’t be easily seen, but the spread of infection causes them
to harden and become painful. They are large and obtrusive, and they
sometimes turn black. This is due to breaking blood vessels, which
then dry on the surface of the body, causing black bumps on the body.

The largest concentrations of lymph nodes
are in the neck, armpits, and groin. These epicenters swell when
a person is ill because the body makes a large number of white blood cells
to fight off whatever pathogen has entered the body. Lymph contains many
white blood cells that help fight cancer causing and disease organisms.

The “electron transport chain” function
in the body is necessary to make basically all things happen in the body.

Yersinia pestis releases a toxin into the body that inhibits this function
from happening. So the bacteria stop the body in its tracks. This
doesn’t involve the lymphatic system, but is another way the plague affects
the body.

In the Middle Ages, people weren’t sure
how the plague was being spread so quickly. Now we know that fleas
spread the plague. The bacterium, called Yersinia Pestis, makes its
way to the upper digestive tract of the flea where it breeds and multiplies.

When the flea finds a new host and drinks the blood, it regurgitates the
bacteria into the host, thus infecting the host.

Many people think that rats spread the
Plague. This is partly true. Rats are not the direct infectors
of the Plague; they are merely hosts for the fleas carrying the bacteria.

The Plague can be spread through any rodent or animal that could get fleas.

So the rat, cat, or prairie dog that has fleas could be considered a vector
for the disease. Rodents can carry the plague, but it does not affect
them, they can then pass it on to humans who will most likely die.

Once the bacterium is regurgitated into
the new host, it begins to multiply in the blood stream and the lymphatic
system. The Bacterium travels to the liver, spleen, kidneys, lungs,
and brain, basically attacking the whole body at once. The system
that the plague has the largest effect on is the lymphatic system, because
that is where the most bacteria multiplies. As the lymph nodes swell
with puss, the disease circulates through the blood stream and creates
the possibility of hemorrhaging and lots of other things.

The history of the bubonic plague is a
sad one. Three major pandemics have occurred during the 6th, 14th,
and 17th centuries. The first outbreak was known as the Plague of
Justinian, named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian. 70,000 people
died from the plague in Constantinople over two years. From there,
the plague was transmitted to France and Italy over trade routes, causing
small outbreaks for many years. The effects of this outbreak were
on a large scale.

In the 14th century, the worst plague of
all time occurred, starting in China. This outbreak became known as the
Black Death. From China, the plague spread to Europe by two routes.

Because China was a major trading center, the plague easily spread on ships.

Also, the Tartars carried the plague closer to Europe and into other trading
ports after sieges in Asia. This outbreak devastated not only Asia
and Europe, but also Russia. The Black Death killed more than 1/3
of the European population, or 25 million people. Everything in Europe
came to a halt during this plague outbreak, but public health institutions
were created to deal with stopping the spread of the plague.

The third major outbreak started in Manchuria
in 1890. This plague made its way to San Francisco in 1900.

Many Asian-American citizens were blamed for the plague in the U.S. and
were discriminated against because of it. Houses were burned down
if plague victims were thought to live there. Actions such as this
were reminders of the Great Plague of London in 1665. Less than 20
percent of the population was killed by the Bubonic Plague, but the whole
city was burned to the ground in order to stop the outbreak. This
was an extreme measure, but it worked. During the 1980’s, plague cases
in the U.S. averaged 18 per year.

Procopius of Caesarea is credited as the
first scientist to give a detailed description of the bubonic plague in
541 AD. Unfortunately, ideas about the causes were filled with false
beliefs and superstitions until the late 1800’s. Both Alexandre Yersin
and Kitasato Shibasabaroo discovered the bacillus Pasteurella pestis in
their work in 1894. Pasteurella pestis is the larger group of bacteria
that Yersinia pestis, the infectious agent, is part of. A. W. Bacot
then thought of the idea that fleas from infected rats were the carriers
of the plague and infected people while trying to draw blood from a bite.

Small grayish spots along with tiny bites helped P. L. Simond prove that
fleas were the carriers in 1897.


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