Superstition still guides our response to pandemics

By Lord Buckbeak – 08/29/20 – plague info condensed and edited from various sources

My cmnt: We were told to fight C-19 by wearing a mask, to shelter in place, to not go to the park or the beach, to lockdown the country, to wait til you’re very sick and then go to the hospital, and a ventilator will save you once you’re in the hospital, HCQ is untested, dangerous and may kill you, concentrate the homeless onto the subways and have your essential workers ride with them, and then send your sick to our nursing homes. These were the responses of the Blue-State governors in the N.E. states, these were the guidelines from the experts, these were all the precisely wrong actions to take. Our medieval democrats still wear masks like talismans of garlic and shame those who don’t believe in their superstitions.

It’s 1347 and the Black Death, the bubonic plague or simply the plague, first hits Europe in Sicily. It quickly spread through the Italian mainland and then on up into the rest of Europe.

Plague has devastated Europe at least three major times. The first historically recorded crisis was the Plague of Justinian, which began in 542 A.D. That pandemic killed up to 10,000 people a day in Constantinople. Modern estimates indicate half of Europe’s population—almost 100 million deaths—was wiped out before the plague dissipated in the 700s.

The second most infamous plague outbreak was the aforementioned Black Death that swept through Asia and Europe in the Fourteenth century. It probably started in Mongolia, spread into China in 1334, and then along trade routes into Europe via Sicilian ports. That plague killed an estimated 25 to 50 million people, almost a third of the continent’s population. The Black Death lingered on for centuries, particularly in densely populated cities.

The last great plague outbreak included London in 1665 in which approximately 70,000 residents perished.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that the true cause of plague was determined. It turns out that it is caused by a particularly virulent bacteria called Y. pestis (Yersinia pestis), which lives in fleas and is carried by rodents especially the black rat. It is mostly transmitted when an infected flea bites a human host. It can also be spread if an infected person’s bodily fluids come into contact with another person, usually through blood, stool or spittle droplets from coughing. 

Some researchers now believe the fleas and lice that spread the disease may simply jump from human to human rather than just rats and my help explain its rapid spread through the population. 

Antibiotics, when administered in a timely fashion, now control the spread and heal infected individuals. Improved sanitation practices and hygiene in general also controls the spread of this disease. 

My cmnt: The HCQ cocktail – Hydroxychloroquine + Zinc + Azithromycin, when administered in a timely fashion, can now control the spread and heal individuals infected with Covid-19 (see any number of posts on this sites under Covid-19).

But how did the experts, court doctors and authorities respond to this devastating disease at the time?

It turns out pretty much the same way their descendants have responded to Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19 or the Wuhan Chinese novel coronavirus – with panic, superstition and lockdowns.

The following is condensed from BBC Bitesize guides.

Cures for the Black Death

In the 1347 – 1350 outbreak, doctors were completely unable to prevent or cure the plague. For those who believed in the Greek humours there were a range of cures available. ‘Blood-letting’ – deliberately bleeding a vein – was a way of reducing ‘hot’ blood, whilst blowing your nose or clearing your throat was a way of getting rid of too much ‘cold’ phlegm. Mustard, mint sauce, apple sauce and horseradish were used to balance wet, dry, hot and cold in your diet!

A source from 1380 presents a cynical view of their work:

“Doctors need three qualifications: to be able to lie and not get caught; to pretend to be honest; and to cause death without guilt.” taken from Jean Froissart’s Chronicles

My cmnt: How ironic and odd the way history repeats itself. In a strange and eerie fashion Dr Fauci follows all three of these guidelines as if he wrote them himself.

Some of the cures they tried included:

  • Rubbing onions, herbs or a chopped up snake (if available) on the boils or cutting up a pigeon and rubbing it over an infected body.
  • Drinking vinegar, eating crushed minerals, arsenic, mercury or even ten-year-old treacle!
  • Sitting close to a fire or in a sewer to drive out the fever, or fumigating the house with herbs to purify the air.
  • People who believed God was punishing you for your sin, ‘flagellants’, went on processions whipping themselves.
  • In the 1361 – 1364 outbreak, doctors learned how to help the patient recover by bursting the buboes.
  • Doctors often tested urine for colour and health. Some even tasted it to test.

My cmnt: Our estimable Dr Fauci advices:

  • Wear a mask (largely symbolic and ineffective);
  • Shelter in place (i.e., stay home) (this is where 66% of the new hospitalizations came from in New York city in April/May);
  • Don’t use the most inexpensive, available and effective remedial drug Hydroxychloroquine unless you are admitted to a hospital (at which time it is generally too late);
  • And continue to demand a vaccine (whose effectiveness will be about like our current flu shots – i.e., 40%) while the country slowly suffocates from your inane policies.

Medieval European medicine was very different from our modern concept of medicine. There was no knowledge of germs, and only relatively basic tools to diagnose and treat illness. Much of medicine was, at best, based on ancient Roman and Greek ideas of the ‘humours’. The ideal was to balance specific fluids known as ‘black bile’, ‘yellow bile’, blood and phlegm (the fluids made by your ear, nose and throat). To be in a bad or good humour was evidence of how healthy you were! Other doctors would release “evil spirits” by trepanning (drilling a hole in your head to release them). In this context it is not surprising that the causes listed below emerged.

Medieval doctors were not certain what caused the plague, but believed it could be the result of:

  • the movements of the planets
  • a punishment from God
  • bad smells and corrupt air
  • enemies who had poisoned the wells
  • staring at a victim
  • wearing pointed shoes
  • strangers to villages too were blamed

How the plague spread

  • The plague seems to have started in China in the 1330s.
  • In 1347, armies attacking the town of Caffa in the Crimea, catapulted dead bodies into the town. Italian merchants took the plague with them to Sicily in October 1347.
  • In June 1348 Black Death arrived at Melcombe Regis (in Dorset). By the end of the year it had spread throughout the south of England.
  • During 1349, the plague spread into Wales, Ireland and the north of England.
  • The Scots – thinking that God was punishing the English – invaded the north of England, where their army caught the plague. In 1350, therefore, the plague spread through Scotland.
  • The first plague died out in 1350.
  • The plague returned between 1361 and 1364, and five more times before 1405. These plagues mainly killed children, who had no resistance to the disease.

Interpretations of the Black Death

Naming the plague

Medieval writers called the plague ‘the pestilence’. The first person to call it the ‘Black Death’ was a British historian, Elizabeth Penrose, in 1823.

The Black Death hit an already weakened Europe, where population had outgrown the food supply. After the Medieval Warm Period (late 12th century) the drop in average temperatures had reduced the harvests.

Was the Black Death a disaster?

Few historians considered the impact of the Black Death until F A Gasquet, a Catholic monk. In 1893, he described it as a catastrophe which destroyed the Church and caused the Reformation.

In 1966, one historian claimed that it was one of the three greatest catastrophes in the history of the world. Other historians suggested that the Black Death destroyed the feudal system and caused the Peasants’ Revolt.

Other historians questioned this. The social historian G G Coulton (1929) suggested that the Black Death made people wealthier, because it reduced the number of people sharing the wealth.

The Marxist historians claimed that the social changes of the 14th century were caused by general climate and economic factors, and that the Black Death speeded the changes up, but did not cause them.

Was the Black Death the bubonic plague?

Although most historians believe that the Black Death was the bubonic plague, some historians disagree. The descriptions by the Medieval chroniclers are not clear, and often include details – eg the death of animals – which do not fit the modern bubonic plague.

In 1984, Graham Twigg suggested that the bubonic plague, carried by rats, could not have spread quickly enough, and proposed that the Black Death was a form of anthrax. Other historians have suggested that it was a kind of Ebola-virus, or a now-extinct plague germ.

In 1986, the astronomer Fred Hoyle suggested that the Black Death was a virus which came in dust from outer space.

In 2010, however, DNA studies of the mass graves of victims seemed to prove that the virus was a strain of the Bubonic Plague.

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