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Dec 21 2014

World’s Worst Plague

This plague wiped out a third of the human population in the 1300s. It’s also known as the black death, and here’s what you need to know if you’re ever infected by it.

The Worst Plague in History

The bubonic plague, or black death, is a disease transmitted to humans by fleas and rodents or rats carrying the infection.

It was responsible for about 25 million deaths in Europe during the 14th century, or 30-60% of the European population at the time.

The most recent outbreak occurred in mid-19th century Asia where it killed over 12.5 million people in India & China alone.

Where is it located?

The black death can be found everywhere throughout the world due to widespread infestation from rodents and fleas. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease was considered active until 1959, when worldwide casualties dropped to 200 deaths per year.

But, a plague outbreak occurred in 1994 in five Indian states that led to 700 infections and 52 deaths, so the possibility of infection still remains.

How will it kill you?

Bubonic plague is an infection of the lymphatic system–or lymphadenitis. When you’re infected, the bacteria localizes in an inflamed lymph node, where it begins to colonize and reproduce.

It then leads to symptoms such as painful swelling throughout the body, known as buboes, which are pictured here.

The buboes quickly multiply and can hemorrhage and become necrotic (necrosis), resulting in the premature death of cells. According to the History Channel documentary, if left untreated death usually occurs within four days of infection.

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How to survive:

In the medieval times, towns would hire special medical physicians called “plague doctors” to treat the town’s victims.

These special doctors wore long, beak-like masks filled with aromatic items to protect themselves from the putrid air while they were treating their patients.

Nowadays, treatment includes the use of these antibiotics, along with administering intravenous fluids, oxygen, and respiratory support.

Promptly treating infections drops the mortality rate to about 1-15%, while untreated cases have a death rate of 40-60%.

So which country used the bubonic plague as a bacteriological weapon in its wars?
In the 1940s during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japan air-dropped bombs on China that contained plague-contaminated fleas. These caused major epidemic plague outbreaks in China.