Plague is a bacterial infection that can take more than one form. Victims of bubonic plague usually suffer from high fevers and swellings under the armpits or in the groin. Unless treated with modern antibiotics, usually 60 percent of the infected will die, often within the first five days . . . The disease is carried by a variety of rodentsrats, marmots, and prairie dogs, among others. It can pass into a human population when fleas carrying infected rodent blood attach themselves to a human host.
II ORIGINS OF THE BLACK DEATH
Scientists and historians are still unsure about the origins of plague. Medieval European writers believed that it began in China, which they considered a land of almost magical happenings. Chroniclers wrote that it began with earthquakes, fire falling from the sky, and plagues of vermin. Like medieval travel literature, these accounts are based on most myths about life in areas outside Europe. Infected rodents probably migrated from the Middle East into southern Russia, Plague was then spread west along trade routes . . . Venetian and Genoese sailors are known to have brought the plague to Europe. Plague moved quickly along the major trade routes.
Parts of Europe were initially spared the epidemic. Milan was almost unique among the major Italian towns. The lord of the city closed the gates to travelers coming from plague areas,... [continues]
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