What Caused the Bubonic Plague?

Today I started a new feature on my Facebook Author Page  www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Hammond-Hagberg/107548285944928 called “Trivia Question of the Day.” There will be five categories: Nature, TV and Film, Literature, Food and Drink, and Bible.

Here’s the first question:

QUESTION: Nature: Which two creatures are responsible for spreading the Bubonic Plague?

ANSWER: Sorry, this was a trick question. Technically speaking, there were actually three creatures responsible for the spread of bubonic plague: rats, the fleas that lived on the rats, and the bacteria the fleas transferred to humans when bitten.

The bubonic plague, also known as the black death, reached Europe in the late 1340s, killing an estimated 75 million people.  Once infected, many victims had only a few days to live.  In many towns and villages two-thirds of the population was wiped out.

After being bitten by an infected flea, bacteria infected the lymph system. Within days, the patient began exhibiting tell-tale symptoms: swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit, or neck the size of a chicken egg that were tender and warm to the touch, a sudden onset of fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, and fatigue.

It is believed that the Great Fire of London in 1666 brought the European plague to an end because it destroyed the habitat of the rats that carried the fleas. Sadly, the plague still exists today, but antibiotics can cure it if the disease is caught in time.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, you might enjoy Geraldine Brooks’ novel Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague.

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