Today, most people think of the Black Death as something just in history books. a time before doctors knew about viruses and bacteria.
But this month, 3 people in China were diagnosed with 2 different forms of The Plague, highlighting that it is not entirely a thing of the past. Neither are discussions about the cause of the killer disease, how it spread, and where it came from.
Quaint, when President Trump mentioned it from the WH briefing platform, the MSM chided him for being racist,
The Black Death is a disease that has impacted humans for centuries, there is a lot scientist do not know about the plague.
Humans have been hit by 3 major plague pandemics over the past 2,000 yrs, that has resulted in about 200-M deaths.
The 1st came in the 6th Century, during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I.
The 2nd, officially known as the Black Death swept across medieval Europe, starting in the 14th Century.
The 3rd began in China in the 19th Century, and spread to other parts of Asia and the US perhaps via the Silk Road trade routes.
In the Middle Ages many thought the disease wat sent by God as punishment for sins.
By the 20th Century, scientists were pretty sure that all 3 of those pandemics were caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which is found in small mammals and fleas.
They knew that there were a number of varieties of Yersinia pestis, the most common of which are pneumonic and bubonic, the type that causes large sores.
Starting in the 1970’s and 1980’s, historians and biologists began pointing out that the 2nd pandemic did not act like the 3rd pandemic in a significant way, as it killed many more people.
That prompted people to theorise that another disease had caused the Black Death, And the breakthrough came in the 2000’s, when scientists developed the ability to extract ancient DNA, including that from medieval skeletons.
And when scientists analyzed the skeletons of plague victims, they found fragments of Yersinia pestis.
That led to this Big Question: if the disease was not genetically different, then why was the 2nd pandemic so deadly?
There are lots other questions and misconceptions that remain over the Black Death beyond the poor hygiene of the Dark Ages.
Then about 10 yrs ago, some scientists argued that the plague could made have originated in East Asia over 2,600 yrs ago.
The second pandemic could have started in China, they said, and been brought to Europe through the Silk Road the trade route that connects China to Europe.
They also aruged that the disease was brought to Africa by Zheng He, a Chinese explorer who traveled around the world in the 15th Century, and who has drawn comparisons with Italian explorer Marco Polo who is credited with bringing noodles and gelato to Italy.
Scientists since have found DNA evidence that the plague could have existed much further back than previously thought.
There is evidence it existed in Europe 5,000 yrs ago, and the notion that the 2nd pandemic, the Black Death, could have originated in China may be questionable, as DNA evidence extracted from the skeletons of medieval plague victims, and genetic analysis of the bacteria, suggest that the outbreak probably began in central Asia, and then moved East to China, and then West into Europe via trade routes. Nevertheless, it came to the West with China trade.
Now, when it comes to the 3rd pandemic, there are fewer scientific questions.
Scientists are now sure it originated in China in the 19th Century, in what is now the southwestern province of Yunnan.
That flea born bubonic plague outbreak made its way to Hong Kong, and from there, spread via trade routes to other parts of Asia and the US, that is an undeniable fact that there was pathway of transmission from China to the outside world.
That outbreak brough on the 3rd global plague pandemic.
But, hang on it was another China plague outbreak that would help shape China’s future.
In the 1910’s, there was another outbreak of plague in Manchuria, what is now northeast China. Thousands were killed by pneumonic plague, a very severe strand that affects the lungs.
At that time, parts of China were occupied by foreign powers. Both the Russian and Japanese empires claimed they could manage the plague in Manchuria better than the Chinese, which showed China that disease could be a “security disaster” as it “legitimated colonial meddling“.
The Chinese did not forget.
Then when Mao Zedong, a real history scholar, came to power in Y 1949, he made disease control a priority. There were a number of reasons for that, but Key was to show the world that China could handle its own affairs and did not need outside help.
With that, Mao put in place measures to control the country’s rampant diseases.
Mao’s most famous proposals was the “Four Pests Campaign,” where he called for all rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows to control the “plague“, the Four Pests Campaign led to the slaughter of millions of wildlife, which disrupted the country’s ecology and contributed to a mass famine during which millions of people died anyway.
Later, China improved its overall healthcare across the country. But, the plague was not been the focus of the healthcare push, and so it has returned occasionally, as Yunnan was hit by another breakout between Ys 1986 and 2005, and another case was diagnosed there in Y 2016.
Today, the plague is not the biggest health risk facing many countries. In Y 2017 219-M people contracted malaria and 435-K people died from it. By contrast, between Ys 2010 and 2015, 584 people died of the plague worldwide as the population has become immune, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) if it is to be believed.
Centuries later, the Black Death still interests scientists and historians, who are continuing to make discoveries about it despite it occurring hundreds of years ago.
From what I have learned the fascination with the Black Death comes from a cultural memory in the Middle East and Europe, where the disease has been studied about several centuries.
The plagues are central to Western identity, whereas ebola and malaria is more devastating it does not interest us unless we are related to its research and treatment in some ways.
Nevertheless, many of our ideas about where an epidemic/pandemic comes from go right back to China, as has happened with the advent of the COVID-19 coronavirus, now forever to be known as the ‘The China Virus”
Have a happy healthy Holy holiday weekend, stay home, Keep the Faith