The First Plagues and Epidemics

When compared to war, plagues have taken more lives , causing the destruction of families, entire communities, and even large cities. One of the most powerful plagues in history is referred to as the Black Death, which took place during the Middle Ages and destroyed one-third of the European population in less than four years. In this article, we will take a look at other diseases that have claimed a great deal of lives.

When diseases spread, they require a means of transfer. In many cases, animals and insects, such as rats and fleas, are the culprits , as seen in the 14th century bubonic plague. Viruses, bacteria, and parasites not only originate from plants and animals, but people can also be found at the root of destruction. When the Spaniards arrived in America, they brought much more than their bright and shining faces, they introduced the New World to smallpox.

The destructive nature of disease is not only confined to thousands of years ago. In 1918, influenza took the lives of more than 20 million people over the course of four months. The body count exceeded the number of lives taken in the four years of World War I. However, the first epidemics would surround a plague that received a nickname that filled the bones with fear whenever mentioned”¦.

The First Epidemics

Death by an epidemic has been taking lives for thousands of years. It’s no wonder, the bacteria and viruses behind plagues and other destructive events, have called our planet home for billions of years. The first epidemics and pandemics that involved humans date back about 9,000 years ago.

Over the years, the Bubonic Plague would become one of the most feared thoughts throughout the centuries as it continued to reappear most notably during the 6th, 14th and 17th centuries.  For about 1,200 years, the bubonic plague didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. It made an appearance during the fall of the Roman Empire and even emerged around the same time as the great fire of London.

Across the world, populations were hit with three major pandemics of the bubonic plague (better known as the Black Death). The death toll is estimated to have claimed 137 million lives during the three outbreaks.

Bubonic Plague Background

Thanks to a bacterium called Pasteurella pestis, the plague was transmitted with the help of flea bites from infected rats. Before death, victims suffered swollen lymph nodes, fever, and bouts of delirium. Early on, one of the most dreaded of symptoms would surface , buboes caused lymph glands to enlarge in the armpit, groin, and neck. The disease was highly contagious and spread fast. Your prognosis was grim with the plague, as it took 90% of its victims to an early grave. Death was known to come in less than one week.

The Old English rat was responsible for spreading the disease when it became infected with the Pasteurella pestis bacteria. Fleas passed the plague from rat to rat, and since the rodents liked to dwell in warm, dry environments, like houses and ships, they were in close contact with humans.