BUBONIC PLAGUE

Cosmos - - Gallery - CREDIT: ROYAL STOCKPHOTO / GETTY IMAGES

Bubonic plague is as­so­ci­ated with an aver­sion to the ur­ban rat, though the real pub­lic en­emy is the rat’s fleas, whose bites in­tro­duce the bac­terium Yersinia

pestis into the blood­stream. De­posited in lymph nodes, it causes pathog­nomonic “buboes” (from the Greek, mean­ing swelling) . The lumps ex­pand, turn a mot­tled pur­plish-black and in­flict pain bad enough, on one ac­count, to make even the co­matose writhe.

The plague is be­lieved to be the cause of the “Black Death”, which took a scythe to Asia and Europe in the 14th cen­tury, killing more than half the pop­u­la­tion. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion still re­ports up to 2,000 an­nual cases of the dis­ease, which is now, thank­fully, treat­able with an­tibi­otics.

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