The Black Death and history of the plague

The human race has been under attack for centuries – not from little green men from Mars, but from infectious disease. Mankind is still at risk for massacre from multiple threats such as Ebola, avian flu, anthrax and smallpox. In order to understand how important it is to prevent such a disaster, one can study the most fearful epidemic ever recorded in history – plague. Listen to the voice of a 6th century historian as he describes the plague’s effects:

“During these times there was a pestilence, by which the whole human race came near to be annihilated…it started from the Egyptians…then it divided and moved in one direction towards Alexandria…from there it spread over the whole world, always moving forward and travelling at times favorable to it.”

“Apparitions of supernatural beings in human guise of every description were seen by many persons…immediately upon seeing this apparition they were seized also by the disease…even in the sanctuaries where the most of them fled for refuge they were dying constantly…they shut themselves up in their rooms and pretended that they did not hear, although their doors were being beaten down.”

“They had a sudden fever, some when just roused from sleep…and up till evening neither the sick themselves nor to a physician who touched them would it afford any suspicion of danger…a bubonic swelling developed…inside the armpit, and in some cases also beside the ears, and at different points on the thighs…from then on very marked differences developed…there ensued some with a deep coma, with others a violent delirium…were victims of a distorted imagination; for they suspected that men were coming upon them to destroy them, and they would become excited and rush off in flight, crying out at the top of their voices.”

“Death came in some cases immediately, in others after many days; and with some the body broke out with black pustules…with many also a vomiting of blood ensued…and in those cases where neither coma nor delirium came on, the bubonic swelling became mortified and the sufferer, no longer able to endure the pain, died.”

“And work of every description ceased, and all the trades were abandoned…and all other work as well…starvation almost absolute was running riot.”

Let us all hope that no similar terror will be unleashed upon the peoples of the earth.

For more reading, check out this new history of the plague by John Kelly.

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