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Between 1339 and 1351 AD a pandemic of plague traveled from China to Europe known in Western history as The Black Death Carried by rats and fleas along the Silk Road Caravan routes and Spice trading sea routes the Black Death reached the Mediterranean Basin in 1347 and was rapidly carried throughout Europe from what was then the center of European trade Eventually even areas of European settlement as isolated as Viking settlements in Greenland would be ravaged by the plague By the time these plagues had run their course in 1351 between 25 and 50 of the population of Europe was dead An equally high toll was exacted from the populations of Arabia North Africa South Asia and East Asia This paper will examine the role of trade in the spread of the plague Note Europe is a crucial focus to plague as a trade related issue for this reason Since plague is not native to the European region the relationship between Medieval trade and Medieval Europes greatest ecological disaster become obvious 2 Description The Black Death was actually a combination of three different types of plague bubonic pneumonic and septicaemic with bubonic being the most common The bacteria which causes the diseases lives in the digestive tract of fleas most frequently rat fleas Plague bacteria can continue to survive in places like rat burrows dark moist environments even after the plague has killed off all the rats in an infected group Thus the plague can lay dormant for a lengthy period of time until a new group of rodents moves into an infected burrow Rats were extremely important to spreading the plague but they were not the only means of dissemination Through the spread of fleas among rodent populations plague outbreaks can strike both urban and rural areas Furthermore the plague-bearing fleas could be transmitted to virtually any type of household or farm animal 1 Bubonic Plague has an incubation period
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