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Chapter 4

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Health Studies
Rhan- Ju Song

September 20 , 2012 Chapter 4: An Ancient Plague, the Black Death  During the last 2000 years, three great bubonic plague pandemics have results in social and economic upheavals that are unmatched by those caused by any armed conflict or any other infectious disease o First bubonic plague pandemic (542-543) of the Roman Empire East o In 1346, the second pandemic began, known as the back death, great dying, and great pestilence o Third pandemic- 1860s in the Yunnan region of China  Today, 600 years later we know that the source of the second pandemic was microbes left over from the first pandemic ( the Justinian plague), which has moved eastward and remained endemic for seven centuries  Rats boarded ships, moving from port to port, and country to country, spreading the plague to all of human population  The black death is associated with Florence, and because it felt the full impact of the epidemic it is sometimes called the Plague of Florence  People believed that the only way to get rid of the disease was to isolate the sick  They didn’t realize that the microbes were the cause of the infectious diseases that led to the institution of crude and generally ineffectual public health measures  The venetian republic made all ships, their crew, passengers, and cargo to remain on ship for 40 days while tied up to the dock o however this did not work, because the rats are the ones who had the infectious disease and they left the ships by using dock lines  People tried burning clothes and bedding, and people were shut in their homes however that just infected the non-infected which caused a high mortality rate  The third pandemic began in the 1860s in china  Troop movements from the war in that area allowed it to spread to the southern coast of China  Plague infected rodents, now assisted by steamships and railways quickly spread the disease to the rest of the world  In three pandemics, it is estimated that rat-borne bubonic plague killed more than 2000 people A Look Back  Beginning of the 12 century, European population grew quickly, however by the 13 century there was periods of cold winters and rainy summers—agriculture could not keep up with the population rise which led to famines that occurred every few years  The result was poverty and misery, especially in crowded, filthy areas  Rats and humans lived in close quarters in cities and in ships, as the human population soared so did the rats  Black rats highly susceptible to the plague started to get infected and with dying off rodents humans became the victims  By 1352 the plague had completed a circuit and a deadly trap had been secured around Europe  People were shock and in fear, they deserted cities, communities were thrown into chaos  Some positive aspects of the Black death were it contributed to technological advances through the invention of labour-saving devices, as well as a revelation of Galenic medicine, and it also led to a more diversified economy with a redistribution of wealth Public Health 1 September 20 , 2012  Deaths from the plague radically reduced the average life expectancy from 35 years to 20 years  Since the sick were seen as the enemy, they had to be separated from the healthy  Infected individuals were removed from their houses and isolated in special hospitals called “pest houses”  Few were ever cured from the disease, but their isolation helped curb the spread of the disease  They made sure to bury the body as soon as someone died, they burned clothing and bedding and anything else that got infected, and even put a quarantine 90% of sailors died aboard ship and 50% of the population of Venice died  Pilgrimages went to go seek salvation elsewhere and they were called the seeds for spreading the infection  Towns closed their gates to travelers, which protected some towns & spread the disease in others Discrimination  Restrictions such as sanitaires and quarantine frequently were expanded to limit personal freedom and o identify the culprits  Plague aided in the spread of anti-Semitism, a practise already begun when Jews were slaughtered beginning with the First Crusade in 1096  In some Muslim countries, it was the Christians that were blamed, however in both Muslim and Christian countries the Jews were blames  Rumors said that the Jewish were spreading the disease by poisoning peoples wells  The news of “well poisoning” of the Jews spread from country to country, which led to riots  900 Jews were rounded up and on February 14 1349 they were burned on the grounds of the Jewish cemetery o All Jews were placed in a large wooden building and burned to death  All Jews had to wear the yellow star of David on their clothing, they were prohibited from owning land, they became merchants, bankers, financers etc. Church  In cities of 50,000 people, more than 500 people died each day  Priests who gave last rites had a very high mortality, and there was a loss of faith in the clergy because they seemed so powerless to prevent death or the spread of the death from disease  The roman catholic church passed the responsibility for plagues on to God, suggesting that this was judgment day, that people had sinned and so nothing could be done to reduce the suffering  Fear of plague also led to a greater consciousness of religion, especially the “magical religion” embodied in the cults of healer saints  The flagellant movement did some good: it brought about a spiritual revival, sinners confessed, robbers returned stolen property, and hope was raised, it provided a theoretical diversion  The Jews became the special victims of the flagellants and their persecutions were the forerunners of the massacres Medicine  Medieval society had four kinds of medical practitioners: o academic physicians; who knew theory but did not care for the sick o surgeons; who learned their trade as apprentices and who were the principal caregivers of the sick o barbers; who did bloodletting 2 September 20 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