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THE BUBONIC PLAGUE Introduction Plague was a term that was applied in the Middle Ages to all fatal epidemic diseases but now it is only applied to an acute infectious contagious disease of rodents and humans caused by a short thin gram-negative bacillus In humans plague occurs in three forms bubonic plague pneumonic plague and septicemic plague The best known form is the bubonic plague and it is named after buboes or enlarged inflamed lymph nodes which are characteristics of the plague in the groin or neck or armpit Bubonic plague can only be transmitted by the bite of any of numerous insects that are normally parasitic on rodents and that seek new hosts when the original host dies If the plague is left untreated it is fatal in thirty to seventy five percent of all cases Mortality in treated cases is only five to ten percent History Of The Bubonic Plague The origin of the bubonic plague is unknown but it may have started in Africa or India Colonies of infected rats were established in Northern India many years ago Some of these rodents had infected traders on the route between the Middle East and China After 1330 the plague had invaded China From China it was transferred westward by traders and Mongol armies in the 14th century While these traders were travelling westward they followed a more northerly route through the grasslands of what is now Russia thus establishing a vast infected rodent population there In 1346 the disease reached Crimea and found its way to Europe in 1347 The outbreak in Europe was a devastating one which resulted in more than 25 million deaths-about twenty five percent of the continents whole population After that the plague reappeared irregularly in many European cities until the early 18th century when it suddenly stopped there No explanation has ever been
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