Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Black Death- Europe 1347-1350

The Black Death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It is widely thought to have been an outbreak of bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, but this view has recently been challenged. Usually thought to have started in Central Asia, it had reached the Crimea by 1346. From there, probably carried by fleas residing on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships, it spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe.

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population, reducing the world's population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400. This has been seen as creating a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe's population to recover. The plague returned at various times, resulting in a larger number of deaths, until it left Europe in the 19th century

The Black Death is categorized into three specific types of plague: bubonic plague (infection in the lymph nodes, or [hence] buboes), pneumonic plague (the infection in the lungs), and septicemic plague (the infection in the blood and the most deadly of the three). Scientists and historians at the beginning of the 20th century assumed that the Black Death was an outbreak of the same diseases, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and spread by fleas which primarily made use of highly mobile small animal populations like that of the black rat (Rattus rattus). Once infected by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, it is estimated that victims would die within three to seven days. However, this view has recently been questioned by some scientists and historians, and some researchers, examining historical records of the spread of disease, believe that the illness was, in fact, a viral hemorrhagic fever.

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