China came rats infected by fleas, the source of the bubonic plague. This plague, simply known
as the Black Death had a profound effect on European history creating a series of religious,
social, and economic upheaval in the midst of killing over half of Europe’s population.
Sweeping over Europe and Asia, the Black Death was named after a symptom of the
disease, called acral necrosis. The sufferers were overcome with fevers, could not keep food
down, and delirious from pain. Even stranger, mysterious black boils oozing blood and pus is the
cause of the plague’s name. The Black Death was indiscriminate and became a devastating
epidemic, ravaging cities causing widespread hysteria and death.
Authorities quickly ordered the
fleet of ships out of the ports but to no avail. The plague continued for the next five years killing
more than 20 million people in Europe, almost one third of the continent’s population (Distinct
Historic records attribute the Black Death to an outbreak of bubonic plague. Germs called
yersenina pesis transmitted to humans by rat fleas from infected rats spread the plague from
place to place, human-to-human (Distinct Clones, 2010). Antibiotics did not exist
during this time period and would not have worked; the plague was a virus, not a bacterial
infection. In addition, immunizations for such viruses did not exist. In the medieval times,
viruses as this were thought to be caused by bad luck, witches, and the like. Rituals, tonics, and
herbs were the only medicine known. Different beliefs regarding the cause of the plague included
punishment from God, followers of different religions had poisoned the wells, victims
contaminated the air, and some thought the planets shifted. In any event, strange attempts to
escape the wrath of the plague occurred causing an additional decline in the population and
drastic changes in organized religion (Zapotoczny, 2006).