Bubonic plague

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bubonic plague



Bubonic Plague Just mention the name and you will send shivers down the spine

of many people. There is no doubt that this disease was deadly. Deadly and gruesome to

watch. The death rate was 90% for those exposed to the bacterium. It was transmitted by

the fleas from infected Old English black rats. The symptoms were clear: swollen lymph

nodes (buboes, hence the name), high fever, and delirium. In the worst case, the lungs

became infected and the pneumonic form was spread from person to person by coughing,

sneezing, or simply talking. From the time of infection to death was less than one week.

There were three major epidemics - in the 6th, 14th, and 17th centuries. The death toll

was 137 million victims. As a result, the plague is considered to be the worst epidemic of

all time

Black Death Plague is a term applied randomly in the Middle Ages to all fatal

epidemic diseases, but now restricted to an acute, infectious, contagious disease of

rodents and humans, caused by a short, thick bacillus, Yersinia pestis. In humans, plague

occurs in three forms: bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, and septicemic plague.

Bubonic plague is the best-known form and is so called because it is characterized by the

appearance of buboes, in the groin or armpit or on the neck. Bubonic plague is

transmitted by the bite of any of numerous insects that are normally parasitic on rodents,

and that seek new hosts when the original host dies. The most important of these insects

is the rat flea Xenopsylla cheopis, which is parasitic on the brown rat. Untreated bubonic

plague is fatal in 30 to 75 percent of all cases. The Black Death, the name later given to

the plague, ravaged Europe between 1347 and 1351, taking a great toll of life. Modern

research confirms the estimate of the chronicler Jean Froissart that about one-third of the

population died. Originating in China and Turkestan, the plague was transmitted to

Europeans when a Kipchak army catapulted plague-infested corpses into the town. The

Plague spread from the Mediterranean ports, affecting Sicily, North Africa, Italy, Spain,

France , Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, and England, and Scandinavia and the

Baltic lands.There were recurrences in 1361-63, 1369-71, 1374-75, 1390, and 1400. In

bubonic plague, the first symptoms are headache, nausea, vomiting, aching joints, and a

general feeling of ill health. The lymph nodes of the groin or, less commonly, of the

armpit or neck, suddenly become painful and swollen. The temperature, accompanied by

shivering, rises to between 101° and 105° F. The pulse rate and respiration rate are

increased, and the victim becomes exhausted and apathetic. The buboes swell until they

approximate a chicken egg in size. In nonfatal cases, the temperature begins to fall in

about five days, and approaches normal in about two weeks. In fatal cases, death results

in about four days. The purple color, which appears in all plague victims during their last

hours, is due to respiratory failure; the popular name Black Death that is applied to the

disease is derived from this symptom. Many preventive measures, such as sanitation,

killing of rats, and prevention of the transport of rats in ships arriving from ports in which

the disease is endemic, are effective in reducing the incidence of plague. Famine, which

reduces resistance to the disease, results in spread of plague. Individuals who have

contracted the disease are isolated, put to bed, and fed fluids and easily digestible foods.

Sedatives are used to reduce pain and to quiet delirium. During World War II, scientists

using sulfa drugs were able to produce cures of plague; subsequently, streptomycin and
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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