One thing I have always had an odd obsession with is the history of the Black Death. It was a major event in history and the way people handled the outbreak has always interested me. So for this blog entry I will focus on its spread to Italy.
The Black Death started in Mongolian Desert in the 1320s before making its way to China and then to Italy. Italy was the first of Europe to obtain the disease and therefore was blamed for its cause. Because of Italy’s numerous trade routes, it was the first country to contain major contractions of the sickness. In other neighboring countries, Italian travelers and residences were killed in fear that they would somehow spread the disease (even though most of these people wouldn’t have had it).
The Black Death itself is a disease caused by a bacterium that is carried by rats and transferred by fleas. Because rats were prominent on ships, the illness spread easily from trade route to trade route (same as a virus being spread by planes today). The disease had early signs such as fatigue, fever, and aching, but the more famous signs were in the more developed stages: swollen and blackened lymph nodes called buboes, and coughing up blood.
Treatments of the plague actually led to a larger spread of it and more deaths. Bleeding was a popular treatment at the time and caused more people to become infected or bleed out. Similarly, doctors would break open the buboes to drain the fluids, but that is where most bacteria lived.
Italy suffered the main portion of the plague between its initial arrival in Europe and becoming the blame of the disease’s existence by the rest of Europe. The plague passed around 1350, but Italy had the most deaths per area due to its dense population. About 1/3 of its population was wiped out.
I feel it is important to know about the Black Death because of its medical relevance on how disease is spread and treated, but also because it had a major impact on the populations. Anyone who has Italian descent remember: the blood of a plague survivor runs in your veins!
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