Showing posts with label Black death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black death. Show all posts

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nurses Talk - So many people are asking about Black Death and no one can explain it well.  Some say that Black Death was the name of the disease that claimed so many lives in Europe many centuries ago.  Others would say it was the unforgettable crisis in Europe that people died from rat bites. So what really is Black Death?

Rat Flea
Black Death was the term they used to the devastating plague that kills so many people in Europe during 14th Century.

It got its name Black Death because black spots appeared on the skin of the victims.  The Black Death was bubonic plague or its more virulent relative, pneumonic plague.

When a victim is infected with the virus several symptoms strike his body, which cause his sudden death:
  • High fever
  • Hard swelling of the lymph glands
  • Pneumonic related disorders (causes the patient to vomit blood and hard to breath)
 The plague bacillus carriers were fleas of black rats or by the wastes of the victims.   Doctors and helpers at that the time were easy victims of the plague.  The virus was airborne so people easily infected even they live far from the victims. .

According to many historians that the plague was carried to Europe by rats on merchant vessels, which traveled from Middle East.

Arriving in southern Italy in the summer of 1347, it soon spread by trade routes to Spain and France. The plague reached England in 1348, Germany in 1349, and Russia in 1350.

When Black Death spread rapidly in Europe it was totally difficult to combat.  There were no standard health and Medical  procedures at that time to cater the needs of the victims, plus personal hygiene was nonexistent in every household. 

Mortality Rates

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60 percent of Europe's population, reducing world population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in the 14th century. The aftermath of the plague created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals, which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe's population to recover.

The appearance of both lay piety movements and heresy during the Black Death owes something to the moral crisis of the late Middle Ages and to the disillusionment of the people with the church of that time. Popular terror was reflected in frenzies of religious excess, as in the case of the Flagellants. Jews were accused of spreading the plague by poisoning wells, and pogroms directed against them occurred in the Rhineland and Switzerland, in spite of papal protests. Hysterical charges of sorcery and witchcraft were brought against eccentric and unpopular people. The art and literature of the period testify to the contemporary obsession with death and decay.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

 

Scientists have cracked the genetic code of the Black Death, one of history's worst plagues, and found that its modern day bacterial descendants haven't changed much over 600 years.
Luckily, we have.
The evolution of society and medicine — and our own bodies — has far outpaced the evolution of that deadly bacterium, scientists said.
The 14th century bug Yersinia pestis is nearly identical to the modern day version of the same germ. There are only a few dozen changes among the more than 4 million building blocks of DNA, according to a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.
What that shows is that the Black Death, or plague, was deadly for reasons beyond its DNA, study authors said. It had to do with the circumstances of the world back then.
In its day, the disease killed between 30 million and 50 million people — about 1 of every 3 Europeans. It came at the worst possible time — when the climate was suddenly getting colder, the world was in the midst of a long war and horrible famine, and people were moving into closer quarters where the disease could infect them and spread easily, scientists say. And it was likely the first time this particular disease had struck humans, attacking people without any innate protection.
"It was literally like the four horseman of the apocalypse that rained on Europe," said study lead author Johannes Krause of the University of Tubingen in Germany. "People literally thought it was the end of the world."
In devastating the population, it changed the human immune system, basically wiping out people who couldn't deal with the disease and leaving the stronger to survive, said study co-author Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University in Ontario.
But simple antibiotics today, such as tetracycline, can beat the plague bacteria, which doesn't seem to have properties that enable other germs to become drug resistant, Poinar said. Plus, changes in medical treatment of the sick, coupled with improved sanitation and economics, put humanity in a far better position. And there's an immune system protection we mostly have now, Poinar said.
"I think we're in a good state," Poinar said. "The reason we do so well is that conditions are so different."
People still get the disease, usually from fleas from rodents or other animals, but not that often. There are around 2,000 cases a year in the world, mostly in rural areas, with a handful of them popping up in remote parts of the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier this year, two people in New Mexico were diagnosed with plague. In 1992, a Colorado veterinarian died from a more recent strain, one that scientists used heavily in their study.
To get the original Black Death DNA, scientists played dentist to dozens of skeletons.
During the epidemic in the 14th century, about 2,500 London area victims of the disease were buried in a special cemetery near the Tower of London. It was excavated in the mid-1980s with 600 individual skeletons moved to the Museum of London, said study co-author Kirsten Bos, also of McMaster University. She then removed 40 of those teeth, drilled into the pulp inside the teeth and got "this dark black powdery type material" which likely was dried blood that included DNA from the bacteria.
And when she was done, Bos returned the teeth, minus a little DNA, to the skeletons at the museum.
When the same scientists first tried mapping the bacteria's genetic makeup, it appeared to be a distinctly different germ than what is around currently. But part of that was a reflection of working with 660-year-old DNA and newer, more refined techniques revealed less difference between the early day and modern Y. pestis bacteria than between a mother and daughter, Krause said.
That's a surprising result, but the work was well done and makes sense, said Julian Parkhill, a disease genome expert at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain. Parkhill was not involved in the research but has studied the bacteria.
"Getting an effectively complete genome sequence of a bacterium that lived nearly 700 years ago is incredibly exciting," Parkhill said.

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