Our Greatest Enemy: The Black Death

By: Cade Vickers - Period 5

Alan Huffman once said, " Anyone who was alive during the outbreak of the bubonic plague in the 14th century experienced something terrifyingly close to the widespread death and chaos of an apocalyptic event." Trying to survive was the only option. No one would ever be safe without the protection of disease and medication specialists.

How Did Rats effect it?

The Black Death (or Bubonic Plague) broke out in 1346, the plague was so deadly, the first victim of death died twenty-three days later. The disease first infected some fleas and "black" rats in the sewers, but "black" rats like to be around people. Only one bite from them, and you would be infected with the disease. The Black Plague infected rats contained 500-1000 times more bacteria per unit of measurement than the blood of plague infected humans. From the bite site, the contagion drains to a lymph node that consequently swells to form a painful black swelling called a bubo. It takes about 3-5 days for someone infected to get ill and another 3-5 days before you will most likely die.

How did it spread?

Fleas that lived on rats adapted to riding with their hosts, and getting into their clothing and then they spread to wherever their host goes. We think the disease was an insect-born disease. People got sick on the ships they tried to get away on and then they coughed on each other which spread the disease even more. The disease spread more in urban areas because the urban areas are mostly city which have more people thank rural areas. The effect of that is more people died in urban areas than rural areas. There are both advantages and disadvantages of living in urban areas.

What were the symptoms?

The first symptoms were the same symptoms if you had a BAD cold, but they got worse. Soon you had a rocketing high fever, then you you would start to vomit and these painful black swellings, called buboes, develop in the groin, thigh, neck, and in your armpits. If the buboes burst, the victim can survive the plague, but in most cases the body is unable to cope with the high temperatures and the effects of the virus, leading to eventual death. Plague bacteria can break out of the buboes and be carried by the blood stream to the lungs and germs in contaminated droplets can spread from the cough of patients. The buboes that formed on your body could be about from a half inch to an inch. Not only was the disease bad, but just the symptoms were bad enough to go through.

Where did it originate?

The first scientist thought it originated in China, but other scientists have more detailed information. Scientists say it first originated from the north-western shores of the Caspian Sea into southern Russia in the spring of 1346. Russia was invaded not from the east, but from the west. The extent of the Black Death's contagious power has almost been too mystifying for scientists to get the answer they needed. Most people thought sailing to another country would be a good choice, but the disease crept on-board with the passengers. It slowly infected Asia and it spread right into Europe.

How would you get "away from it?"

When we talk about a cure, we don't really mean anything because there never really was a cure for the Black Death. The people that were infected just had to be isolated from everyone else. If you were in isolation, you were usually locked in an empty room by yourself with nothing in it.

Quarantine is when they put people in a room to prevent disease from spreading. Quarantine is vital when you don't want a lot of dead victims. The Italian word quaranta giorni means 40 days. People are usually in a quarantine for about 40 days.

How did it end?

The most popular theory of how the plague came to an end is through the implementation of quarantines. However, the people that were uninfected would typically remain in their homes or only leave their house when necessary. To prevent from getting the disease people...
  • Usually held handkerchiefs over their face
  • Went away from the security of their community to "get away from it"
  • Thought loud noises would drive it away


1333 - The Black Death breaks out in Asia
1347 - The Black Death arrives in Europe
1348 - The daughter of King Edward III died from the plague
1348 - The plague reaches London
1349 - 3000 Jews in Germany died from the plague
1349 - King Edward III orders the streets to be cleaned of the dead bodies
1349 - 200 people buried everyday
1351 - The plague reaches Moscow (The whole continent of Asia is infected)

Overall, about one-third of the population died from the Black Plague!