Lecture 4- Plague (II): Responses and Measures Wednesday, February 18, 2015 6:54 PM Responses to the Plague and Miasmatism Last time, general overview of the three pandemics\impact of the plague bacterium on the human body o Today, community responses First: unorganized\spontaneous Second: organized\first form of successful public health measure ever devised, first victory over a human disease o Plague still around today, endemic among wild rodents A few cases every year in the southwest First community response\most spontaneous was flight o Panic\fear of sudden death The first to flee were people of means, included authorities\physicians\clergymen Increases disruption and chaos, magnifies terror o Atmosphere in a plague ridden city: Naples in 1656 One of the largest cities in Europe, urban poverty and overcrowding made it vulnerable (port city) Population of 500,000 has 300,000 die All activity in Naples stop, many out of work or hungry Living could not bury dead, too many of them Corpses left in doors\public places 60,000 corpses burned in pyres 20,000 more dumped into the sea Decomposition of the bodies led to a powerful stench Breakdown of law and order in public service People flee, feel the end of the world is at hand Popular image= black figure on horseback, horseman of the apocalypse Fear that God and his anger in hot pursuit o Humoralism also important, medical theory at the time sanctioned this reaction\led to it Epidemics= caused by an imbalance of humors or poisoned air (six unnatural) called a miasma around a specific place Led to fleeing to escape the miasma Response was dictated by social construction= miasmatism Corrupted or defiled\poisoning of the air Emitted by rotting organic matter of infected people\things they touched, poisoned the air Could then be absorbed through inhaling or even the skin, poisoning the body Cities search for a corrupting agent Foul odors plentiful in early modern city Night soil\offal\noxious products of stinking trades Authorities order cleanups, collected refuse, cleansed streets and closed some shops
Ordered promptburial of cadevers In Christian Europe, water= purifying quality due to baptism Streets cleansed with water in times of plague Tried to cleanse air with bonfires that were set with aromatic wood\sulfur Fired cannon as well All of these measures taken by authorities Individual Measures of Self-Protection and Scape-Goating Cause of plague was horrible poisoned air around you, carried little vial of aromatic spices\vinegar on your person o Smoked tobacco in 17th century Others shut up windows\doors to prevent poison from entering your home Clothes of infected had poison cling to them as well Protected themselves with special plague costumes (waxed to prevent anything from adhering to it) Had beaks filled with herbs that were spicy to protect you Carried rods to keep people away from you
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- 2nd millennium