Sanitation During the Black Death

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The Sanitation Problems of the Black Death
The bubonic plague is a bacterial disease that is considered one of the most lethal in history. Recorded pandemics of the plague reach back to 541 A.D. and minor epidemics can still be found around the world (Plague). The plague consists of a bacterium called Yersinia pestis. This bacterium has the ability to mutate quickly and can easily destroy the immune system of the infected person, “it does this by injecting toxins into defense cells such as macrophages that are tasked with detecting bacterial infections. Once these cells are knocked out, the bacteria can multiply unhindered.” (Plague) The bubonic plague has a number of symptoms ranging from a headache to seizures. The most distinguishable symptom, however, is the swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin, under arm, and neck areas (Board). The swollen areas became dark and discoloured very quickly; these massive swollen black areas then became known as buboes. The disease was given the title The Black Death because of the colour change, during a massive pandemic occurring from 1348 to 1350 in Europe (The Black Death, 1348). The bubonic plague struck Europe with an iron fist, leaving destruction and mayhem wherever it went. The disease was easily spread, and became catastrophic during The Middle Ages. In the fourteenth century, Europe was struck by a massive wave of bubonic plague resulting in the death of nearly one third of the continent’s population (britanica encyclopedia). Many factors contributed to the Black Death pandemic; the bacterium travelled from Asia to Europe using rodents as the host, resulting in streets lined with plague. The poor living conditions and lack of proper waste disposal was a key contributor to the spreading of The Plague. Medical techniques of the time were very limited and were based off obsolete medical ideology and little successful research was conducted to support new medical treatments. The lack of proper sanitation during The Black Death pandemic created a devastatingly high mortality rate. The Black Death catastrophe in Europe began in Caffa and was transported by ship to Sicily (The Black Death. Britain Express). The boat contained imported spices and other goods. The boats also contained rodents which acted as hosts to the bacterium. These rodents carried Y. pestis infected fleas (Plague). The disease was Not only did these fleas find their way into the freshly imported luggage, but it expanded into the rest of Europe. The bubonic plague found its way into Italy, and catastrophe hit in major cities. Rodents in large cities carrying the infected reproduced quickly, which resulted in more hosts for the bubonic plague. The rodent hosts provided a perfect habitat for fleas to travel. Considering the small rats were not easily controlled or eliminated, the fleas carrying the Y. pestis bacteria were able to easily expand and infect humans at a rapid rate (Kugler). The colder seasons in Europe allowed for the disease to travel quickly while not showing many signs of pandemic. The rodents would burrow in homes to keep warm, while consuming on any available food. As the weather warmed the rodents and fleas came out of hiding and the pandemic began. The warm weather was the perfect place for bacteria to multiply, before long the entire pantry of the peasants would be completely infested. The citizens would then ingest this highly infected food resulting in the beginning of a long struggle for safety.

The population of rodents could travel easily from city to city. This is how the bubonic plague was so easily spread across the continent. Rodents were capable of sneaking onto carriages traveling from one country to another and then on to boats. The speed of transportation allowed the Black Death to expand from Sicily to England in a matter of a year while killing millions in the process. The excessive rodents caused chaos around the cities; they dug in garbage and filth tracking filth into...
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