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Plague - Bacillus Yersinia Pestis

Identification and Prevention of What Makes Life “Nasty, Brutish, and Short”

Plague is caused by the bacterium bacillus Yersinia pestis, and is carried by rodents, fleas, and mammals. Plague takes three forms: bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic. Bubonic plague affects the lymph glands, while the pneumonic and septicemic forms affect the lungs and the blood. Today, plague can be prevented by antibiotics and strict public health measures. Three methods of controlling carriers involve sanitizing the environment, educating the public on how to prevent exposure, and using prophylactic antibiotics.

“O happy posterity, who will not experience such abysmal woe and will look upon our testimony as a fable,” wrote the Florentian Renaissance author Francesco Petrarch to a friend in the midst of the Black Plague (Benedictow 3). Indeed, the Black Plague and its timeless infamy define when life was nasty, brutish, and short.

Between 1346 and 1353, the Black Plague cast its dismal shadow over Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Western Asia. The plague also recurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in huge pandemics in Asia, and continues to be a threat today. The agent of plague, the bacterium bacillus Yersinia pestis, is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected fleas. Yersinia pestis is carried in the circulatory systems of chipmunks, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, mice, and other mammals. The plague is spread among humans by the inhalation of coughs of plague pneumonia. Although it is tempting to dismiss this pathogen as only active in outbreaks like the Black Death, and despite that the medical community found solutions to plague, plague continues to threaten those who live in areas of poor housing and sanitati...

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