In the mid 1300’s, a deadly plague swept through Europe. It is called the Bubonic Plague. It was nicknamed the “Black Death” because of its trademark black boils. Some of the symptoms were vomiting, fever, large oozing boils that turned black, and then death. Nobody new how to treat it properly, and the cities were absolutely, disgustingly, filthy. So, the plague just kept spreading.
In October of 1337, twelve Genoese trading ships arrived in the Sicilian port of Messina, after a long trip through the Black sea. The townspeople of Messina went down to the docks to welcome the crew. Instead, they were in for a deadly surprised. Most of the sailors were dead, and the many of the ones that were still alive were covered with black, oozing boils, burning up with fever, and unable to keep food down. The cities officials immediately ordered the ships to leave the harbor.
Unfortunately, they were not fast enough. Over the course of the next five years, this death-bringing, extremely painful, and highly contagious illness spread like wildfire throughout the European countries. Back then, the doctors didn’t have the understanding of germs like we do now, so they really didn’t have any idea of how to cure the illness. They would even do dangerous things (that we now know didn’t help at all) such as blood-letting. They would make an incision on the patient, and let the blood drain out into a container. They believed that the sickness was in the blood, so they thought that if you could remove a bunch of the blood, then you could kill the sickness. It didn’t work.
People kept dying. Over a six-week period, in a city called Avignon, 11,000 people were buried in one cemetery. They black death took 1 out of every 2 people’s lives. It was strongest, and taking most lives in the years of 1348-1350, but every hundred years or so, a very small epidemic would come up, but nothing very major. This happened all the way up to the 1800’s.
Thankfully, the black death is pretty much extinct now, but rare cases are still reported. In 2015, there were nine cases of the black death in the USA (something that I was very surprised to learn). But now, we have both knowledge and medicine to know how to treat it. If done properly, it resolves in days or weeks.