At the beginning of the 19th century, people were afflicted by a terrible disease: heavy sweating, slight fever, lack of strength, severe headaches and pain in the limbs as well as nausea, soon followed by strange, dark growths under the armpits, in the groin, on the neck and on the elbows; a day later, dark spots all over the body and days of unbearable pain with a high fever – a short time later, most of the sick died: The plague had broken out.
The plague in Europe
When the "Black Death", as the plague is also called, struck Europe in the years 1348-1350, it is estimated that about 25 million people fell victim to it. That was about one third of the entire European population. Whether rich or poor, man, woman or child – no one was safe from the Black Death. The most common forms of the plague were the bubonic plague described above and the more radical pneumonic plague, in which people usually died within three days after suffering severe chest pains and spitting up blood.
It was not until 1894 that the Swiss doctor Alexandre Yersin discovered the plague pathogen. Therefore, today we know that the plague is a bacterial infectious disease that can be treated with antibiotics. In the Middle Ages, the plague pathogen was transmitted from rats to fleas, which in turn attacked humans. Due to the unhygienic conditions, the disease was able to spread quickly. Today, the plague occurs sporadically in areas of North and South America, Africa, and North Asia, although the disease can be cured if detected early and the probability of a plague epidemic is low.