The Bubonic Plague, or Black Death, was one of the worst British epidemics in history. The first episode lasted from 1348 to 1349. The next episode in Britain would be in 1361, when it was called the mortality of infants because of the mass deaths of babies, 1369, and 1375.

The plague is contracted by the bites of infected fleas. Back in 1348, fleas were all too common and people had learned to live with them. More than 200 different rodent and animal species carried around the flea, including squirrels, chipmunks, domestic cats, rabbits, deer mice, and black rats. Later, when the disease became a pandemic, camels and marmots also carried the fleas.

The symptoms were not too pretty. Within six days of catching the plague, bubo swelling appeared in either the neck, armpit, or groin areas. If the infection reached the lungs, the victim would develop a bloody cough followed by death in a few days. Other symptoms were: headache, malaise, shortness of breath, swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, and weakness. Even seizures, delirium, and comas were reported.

The deaths of the people with the disease were gastronomic. London, England was a city of 100,000 so when the plague came, about 300 people died each day. Small medieval hospitals buried their patients according to religious beliefs, were forced to dig mass graves. According to a friar, 14,000 alone died in Dublin, Ireland. About half of the British population died.

This, I think was one of the saddest epidemics in history. As people realized how infectious it was, the sick were abandoned. Even the slightest drop of mucus could infect a person. Wives were killed by husbands, children were left to fend for themselves, and even the elderly were abandoned.


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