“¡How many brave men, how many beautiful women, how many gallant young men whom Galen, Hippocrates, or Aesculapius would have judged to be very healthy, ate breakfast with their relatives, companions, and friends, and in the evening dined with their ancestors in the other world!” – The Decameron, Bocaccio
1. The disease can occur in three ways :
Bubonic plague or Black Death: it manifests through buboes (swollen lymph nodes), bleeding, gangrene and black skin spots.
Pneumonic plague: when it reaches the lungs (it can be transmitted by air from person to person and kill within a few hours).
Septicemic plague: when the infection reaches the circulatory system. Its mortality rate is 95-100%.
2. It could have spread to Europe through its use as a biological weapon. In 1346, the fearsome Mongolian Golden Horde besieged the Genoese colony of Kaffa on the shores of the Black Sea. However, their conquests were cut short because the Tartar army began to succumb to a strange disease. To drive out the Christians, they catapulted the stinking bodies of their army inside the walls. The Genoese who managed to flee to Italy would carry the plague with them to the ports, and from there to the rest of the continent.
3. The most optimistic calculations estimate that the plague wiped out 60% of the European population between 1346 and 1353, some 50 million people, and between 75 and 200 million if we count the victims in the Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia.
4. The 14th century pandemic was not the only one. In the 6th century the “plague of Justinian” (Justinian was the emperor of the Byzantine Empire at that time) or “first pandemic” began. The numbers of dead in Europe, Africa, and Asia range from 25 to 50 million. Between 1566-1567, another outbreak wiped out a third of the population of Paris. Today, between 1,000 and 3,000 people die from the plague.
5. It is clear to many that the etiological agent of the 14th century “black death” was the bacterium Yersinia pestis, identified in 1894 by Kitasato Shibasaburo and Alexandre Yersin. However, recent studies speak of a synergistic effect between this bacterium and some hemorrhagic virus or some other unknown pathogen that mutated into an extremely aggressive strain. That is, two epidemics would have converged, which would help explain the enormous spread of the disease and many of the symptoms.