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Poland and the Black Death

The bubonic plague is not a virus but rather a bacterium called Yersinia pestis (discovered in 1894 by a bacteriologist named Alexandre Yersin) that lives in the bloodstream of rats as an inconsequential infection. It transfers from rat to rat by fleas, which today we know were the original carriers of the plague. When a flea bites an infected rat and picks up the bacteria, it rapidly reproduces in the flea’s digestive tract, causing a mass that doesn’t allow the flea to swallow. The flea begins to starve from this blockage, and bites new rats in hopes to find food, unable to swallow the flea vomits what it has bitten back into the blood stream, along with the bacteria that was in the flea’s stomach, thus infecting a new rat. The plague began when fleas frantically searching for food began to bite humans as well as rats, giving the humans Yersinia pestis, which unknown to the human immune system, manifested into the plague (Damen 2014). However, humans can not only contract the disease from fleas biting them, but also by inhaling the bacteria. In humans the disease can manifest in three ways: bubonic, septicemic or pneumonic way. In the bubonic plague (which was most common during the Black Death) the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, and groin swell and blacken into “buboes” that then infect the rest of the body. The common practice was to pop these boils, and so typically infection killed the patient if the disease managed to not. With the septicemic plague, the bacterium inhibits the body’s ability to clot, causing internal hemorrhaging that kills the patient. With the pneumonic plague, the bacterium settles in the victim’s lungs and within four to five days, the lungs essentially liquefy, killing the patient. With the pneumoni...

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