From death by excess, we visit pandemics- death in excess. For centuries, it has been a leveler of populations with irregular waves of devastation. It has consumed villages, started and ended empires, and killed the financial plans of nations. But its sweeping devastation, and the inventions to curb its spread, is a fascinating case study.
If the reaper, in all his skeletal glory, incarnates as a scythe-toting edifice of bones, he’d be this murderer. It is single-handedly responsible for, at one point, conquering more than a quarter of Europe. Dan Brown’s Inferno virus has nothing on this soul harvester.
The First Pandemic
was in the Eastern Roman Empire. The Justinian plague, for Justinian I, then emperor of Rome, in the 6th century, is responsible for the collapse of the Roman empire.
The spread of Yersinia pestis– the causative agent- had a lot of help from the dirtiness in medieval times. Poor hygiene and easy transport across borders spread this sickness across continents with little interference until it was too late.
But, a baffling fact of this disease was its ability to produce waves that spanned centuries and occurred centuries apart.
The Second Pandemic
The Black Plague- occurred in Europe in the middle of the 14th century, by far the most deadly occurrence. This occurrence dressed between 75-200 million individuals once and for all between 1346-1353 AD.
Ground zero for disease occurrence is an interesting read. Mongolians catapulted their plague-infested corpses into the city of Caffa, Genoa (now Feodosija, Ukraine). It is one of the earliest known recordings of biological warfare. Italian merchants apparently fled on their ships with flea-infested rats (vectors,) carrying the pathogens in their grain caches to other parts of Italy and Europe (the same grain that served as a major food source for most European households). Further spread to Asia and Africa by those same ships established a transmission pattern similar to that of the Justinian pandemic.
Death births innovation, and Yersinia exemplified this statement most of all. To curb the spread of the bubonic plague, Mongolia shut off the Silk Road- an important trade route between Asia and Europe- to curb its spread from Asia to Europe. The Italian measure was the introduction of quarantine. Sailors stayed out of port on their ships for 40 days to guarantee their health status before entry into any Italian city. Edward III of England, in reaction to his daughter’s death by plague, ordered houses of infected individuals shut up for isolation, and the streets cleaned.
Scotland, an English colony, enacted a harsher verdict at the time. As plague victims continued to rise, soldiers herded many victims of the plague in Edinburgh to a single street and bricked them in forever. The measure helped quell the spread of Yersinia within the city substantially. However, that little nugget of dark history is nothing more than a dreary story
Overall there are more than 5 isolated pandemic situations of plague, with many more intermingling ones. For a name that sounds so sweet, it is a mass killer with the body count to prove it.
Hold on!!! there’s more to this…….but I’m tired.
See you again. Bye.