Bubonic Plague vs Smallpox Essay

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A Battle of Ills
Throughout history, many diseases have come and gone, leaving waves in the water of human progress. And though illnesses have been numerous, only two diseases have truly affected entire civilizations, ravaging the culture and lifestyle of the peoples, and escalating to epidemical heights. The two scourges are bubonic plague, which influenced Europe during the 1300’s, and smallpox, which impacted Mesoamerica and the Native Americans from the 1500’s to the 1900’s. To understand how these sicknesses were so altering to their related societies, one must understand the disease.

First, one must know the background of the disease. The earliest known outbreak of smallpox originated in Asia, more specifically in India (Carr para. 2). Bubonic plague is also presumed to have originated in Asia as well (The Bubonic Plague para. 2). Both the bubonic plague and smallpox spread along trade routes, eventually reaching Europe (Mee Jr. para. 12). From Europe, smallpox spread to the New World through European explorers and the slaves they brought with them (Carr para. 4). Though they have similar origins, these diseases are quite different. Bubonic plague is carried by the black rat, Rattus rattus, and in turn the rat carries the flea Xenopsylla cheopis, which then carries the bacteria of the bubonic plague, or Yersinia pestis (Mee Jr. para. 3)(Mee Jr. para. 1)(Mee Jr. para. 2). Contrary to the bubonic plague, the only natural carriers of smallpox are humans (CDC para. 5). Also differing from the bubonic plague, smallpox is caused by a virus (Carr para. 1). Since the carriers and causes of the diseases vary, the way they spread varies from each other too, which also depends on the variation of the disease one contracts. For example, there are three types of bubonic plague (Hayden para. 2). There is bubonic, with symptoms of large inflamed lymph nodes around the neck, groin, and armpits, that typically turn black, hence its well known name, Black Death...
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