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In the mid-1300s, humanity faced one of its darkest chapters: the Black Death. This devastating outbreak of bubonic plague ravaged vast regions, claiming the lives of an estimated 75 to 200 million people. The toll was particularly severe in Europe, where 30 to 60% of the population succumbed to the merciless disease.

Originating in Asia, the Black Death spread rapidly along trade routes, reaching Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia with unprecedented ferocity. The plague was primarily transmitted by rats and fleas, which thrived in unsanitary living conditions prevalent during the Middle Ages.

As the Black Death swept through communities, it left a trail of death and despair in its wake. Entire towns were decimated, and societies were plunged into chaos as fear and uncertainty gripped the populace. The magnitude of the devastation was staggering, reshaping the demographic landscape of entire continents for generations to come.

Despite its medieval origins, the legacy of the Black Death endures as a stark reminder of the fragility of human existence and the profound impact of infectious diseases on society.

How was it caused?

The plague is a dreaded infectious disease caused by a bacterium carried and spread by parasitic fleas found on rodents, particularly the brown rat. These tiny pests were the unwitting carriers of death, transmitting the deadly bacillus to humans as they fed on their blood. However, it wasn’t just rodents that spread the plague; other parasites, including those residing on human skin, may have also contributed to its transmission.

There are three main types of plague, all of which likely played a part in the devastating Black Death pandemic. Bubonic plague, the most common form during the 14th-century outbreak, was named for the agonizing swellings it caused in the lymph nodes of the groin and armpits. These swollen nodes, known as buboes, would turn a horrifying black color, hence earning the epidemic its ominous moniker, the Black Death. Afflicted individuals also suffered from raging fevers, joint pains, and the appearance of black sores covering their bodies, evidence of internal bleeding caused by the disease.

If left untreated, bubonic plague proved fatal in a staggering percentage of cases, claiming the lives of between 30 to 75% of those infected, often within a mere 72 hours. The other two forms of plague, pneumonic (or pulmonary) and septicaemic, were equally deadly, typically resulting in death in all cases. The sheer virulence of the plague and its swift progression left little hope for those unfortunate enough to contract it, casting a shadow of fear and despair across entire communities during the medieval era.

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