We all know about the Black Death or, as some call it, the Great Plague. We may not all know the exact time frame it occurred, or that it resulted in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Europe--but we are aware that is was bad. Really bad! But, do you know that scientists didn't believe, until recently, that the plague was around earlier than 2,000 years ago? Did you also know that it is still around today? Let's take a quick look at the history of the plague, this new evidence, and what we need to know about the modern-day plague.
In October of 1347, the Black Death came to Europe on 12 Genoese trading ships that docked at the port of Messina, in Sicily, after a long journey across the Black Sea. The people who gathered on the docks to greet the ships were met with a horrifying surprise: Most of the sailors aboard the ships were dead, and those who were still alive were deathly ill. But this is not the first recorded evidence of the plague. Some scholars believe that it was the plague that brought down the Roman Empire in 165 AD, but the first full documents of the plague appeared in 541 AD, killing 25 million people in the Mediterranean basin. In modern day, this deadly disease wreaked havoc on China and later spread across the world killing approximately 10 million people.
But where did it all begin? A new discovery, published in the journal, Cell, reveals that the plague may have been around as far back as 5,000 years ago. Through the drilling of teeth from 101 individuals from prehistoric Asia, and matching DNA samples with modern DNA from plague bacteria, researchers found that 7 of the specimens had the plague. But, their findings seem to indicate that these strands were probably not as widespread as the plagues we have seen in the last 2 centuries because they lack a crucial gene that would allow the disease to be spread to fleas--which is how the plague travels between regions. This sheds light on unsolved historical mysteries like the "Plague of Athens" which struck the Greek capital in 4430 BC, killing 100,000 people during the Peloponnesian War. It was speculated that it may have been typhus or the measles; but with this new evidence, researchers believe it may have actually been a plague.
In the same way that science revealing that fleas--not rats--were the carriers of the Black Death helped to stop the spread of plague across Europe during the middle ages, scientists believe that tracking how the plague evolved from being an intestinal infection to "one of the most deadly diseases ever encountered by humans" could help predict future paths of the disease.
No matter where or when, the Plague is bad news. However, we do have one advantage over the historical plague events in that we now know that it is carried by fleas to humans. Control the flea population and you control the plague. This puts a whole new spin on flea protection for your pets, but should also remind us to control another major carrier of fleas – rodents. For more information about flea control, or to find help in eliminating a rodent infestation, call the experts at Sandwich Isle Pest Solutions. We have the training, experience, and expertise to eliminate rodents, and other pests, safely and effectively.