Throughout recorded history, there have been many pandemics that have dealt devastating blows to the human population. Smallpox, Cholera, and Spanish Influenza, are all examples of deadly diseases that have killed millions of people, but perhaps the most infamous of these is what many know as "The Black Death. " This pestilence ravaged Europe destroying entire towns, tearing apart families, and spreading fear like wildfire until it finally ended. This was a dark time in history, a time that left many questions open for speculation. During the time of Black Death, people had no way of knowing what this disease truly was, how it came to Europe, what caused it, or how to cure it. Today, we have answers to all of these questions, allowing us to combat this disease that still affects people across the world.
The Black Death is not a name of a disease, but rather a specific outbreak of a disease called plague. Plague is a disease that is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia Pestis ("Plague: Ecology and Transmission ") Yersinia Pestis is a bacterium that is most commonly found in rodents and other small mammals. When transmitted to humans, the subsequent disease, plague, takes hold ("Plague: Ecology and Transmission "). The disease has three forms, all of which are deadly in their own right and were a part of the Black Death outbreak. The first and most common form is the bubonic plague. The bubonic plague is usually spread by infected fleas that bite humans. The symptom that gave this form of the disease its name is the occurrence of one or more swollen lymph nodes that are called "Buboes. " ("Plague: Symptoms") The septicemic plague is the second form and it is transmitted similarly to the bubonic plague. This form of the plague can be transitional, manifesting as the first symptoms of plague, or developing from untreated bubonic plague. The visible symptom of this form of plague is the blackening of the skin, a result of internal bleeding infecting organs, skin, and other tissues, killing them ("Plague: Symptoms").