During the 14th and 15th centuries the Black Death killed more than 75 million peoplethroughout Asia and Europe. The vast spread of the Black Death was caused by a highly contagious strain carried by fleas and rats. However this week in London, Archeologists have found evidence that suggests a different reason for the quickness of its transmission, airborne infection.
Last year, twenty-five skeletons were dug up from a burial ground in the Clerkenwell London area. After examining the teeth of each skeleton, forensic specialists found Yersinia Pestis, the DNA of the black plague. When scientists compared this strain to one that had recently killed sixty people
in Madagascar, they found that the 14th century strain was no more virulent than today’s strain. In better terms, the DNA from the skeleton strains was almost an exact match to those strains in Madagascar. It is likely that all twenty-five skeletons who were exposed to the Black Death, died from it.
According to scientists at Public Health England in Porton Down, the only way for the plague to have spread so quickly and over such a large range was for it to have gotten into the victim’s lungs. By being transmitted through coughs and sneezes rather than rats, the Black Death would actually be a pneumonic plague rather than a bubonic plague. The rate of transmission from household was so fast, that there is now way a rat or flea could be result in the high number of plague cases.
With the help of modern day antibiotics, scientists can prevent the disease from becoming pneumonic. However, those who do not have access to these medications can still die from the disease.
Posted by: Lindsey Janof (8)