The "First" Deadly Pandemic (Part 1 of 3)


"Fair use"


For nearly two years, human beings have been living in the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, masking mandates and vaccinations seem to be making a difference. Of course, our team is not forcing anyone else to wear a mask or get vaccinated. However, these options weren't exactly around during the Middle Ages.



I got my second vaccine on August 13, 2021.


Between the years 1346 to 1353 a viral pandemic known as the "Black Death" killed approximately thirty to sixty percent of the European population. As of the modern era, the Black Death has been described as one of the most devastating pandemics in world history.



©National Geographic


"The Black Death was an epidemic of bubonic plague, a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis that circulates among wild rodents where they live in great numbers and density. Such an area is called a ‘plague focus’ or a ‘plague reservoir’. Plague among humans arises when rodents in human habitation, normally black rats, become infected." (Ole J. Benedictow)



There was a large number of rodents inhabiting residential areas, which resulted in the fast contamination of humans. Since these rodents were carrying the bacterium and were living in residential areas (which Benedictow refers to as “Plague Reservoirs”), it was easy to transmit bacteria between rodents and humans.


Within these plague reservoirs, there was often a large number of rodents that were contaminated by this bacterium, and with humans also being present in their homes the bacterium was easily transferable.






Within the same proximity, many rodents preferred to inhabit cellars of family homes which is a good indication of how this illness was actually transferred. More specifically, contamination of food is a major reason for the transmission of this illness to human beings from rodents.


Although food was contaminated by the rodents, another major factor was people were also victims of bites from fleas that had previously inhabited the bodies of rodents afflicted by the plague. For instance, these rat fleas would attack humans after no longer inhabiting rodents. After a few days, the fleas would have experienced a period of fasting and then attack humans which also played a major role in the spread of the plague which was later rendered the Black Death.



Poem by Matthew Henning



"The infection takes three–five days to incubate in people before they fall ill, and another three–five days before, in 80 per cent of the cases, the victims die." (Benedictow)




Something that is quite traumatizing about the Black Death is that people were initially unaware that they had contracted the sickness. With that being said, the process was not immediately visible, when considering symptoms of the illness.



As Benedictow mentions, symptoms were not quite vis