Black Plague

A recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has science website buzzing. It confirms that medieval plague that caused the Black Death in Europe from 1347 to 1351 was caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria. That bacteria still exists today but is nowhere as lethal as it once was. Recent analysis of DNA from a plague cemetery in London is what proved that Y. pestis was the cause. Estimates of the number of deaths from the Black Death in Europe range from 30 to 60 percent of the population in just 5 years.  It seems likely that there was a mutation of the Y. pestis bacteria that caused Black Death and it later mutated to be less deadly.

The first symptom of the plague is swelling of the lymph nodes in the arm pits and groin. This is followed by acute fever and vomiting of blood. Some accounts say that as the swelling in the lymph nodes burst, they blackened. Most victims die within two to seven days after infection. The disease is treatable today with antibiotics if caught early enough.

Chances are if you have European ancestors that your ancestor’s family was touched by the Black Death.