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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Of diseases, plague, and pandemic

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By Mikaela Kristina Acido Muega

We all know disease spreads. Whether it’s a bunch of itchy spots on your skin or a common cold, the microorganisms causing the disease find a way to inhabit something, including living things, to spread the infection further. 

Of diseases, plague, and pandemic
Pierart dou Tielt's illustration of the citizens of Tournai burying the plague victims (ca. 1353).
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the history of diseases in the world, the Great Bubonic Plague or Black Death is a pandemic that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. The disease hit China, India, Persia, Syria, and Egypt, then it spread in Europe when reportedly 12 ships with infected corpses arrived at its docks, killing an estimated 25 to 30 million people—others said the number could be around 50 million—or about 40 to 50 percent of the European population. 

In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and after watching an episode of History’s “Mankind: The Story of All of Us” on the Bubonic Plague, I realized that the quarantine the government has ordered is for our own good. Back then, there was no quarantine or lockdown, so the plague spread very quickly. I suppose if those two measures existed back then, maybe, just maybe, the death toll wouldn’t have been that bad. 

It has made me realize all the more that hygiene is important, especially in times like this. Virus and bacteria like to breed in wet and filthy areas. I believe that during this COVID-19 pandemic, hygiene kits should be distributed, especially to those who can’t afford to buy them and those who live in places with unsanitary conditions. There should also be testing and investigation.

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It also made me think of the social impact of this to the world. One of the most disturbing moments during the Bubonic Plague was the Strasbourg massacre on February 14, 1349 when hundreds of Jews were blamed for the plague and were thus publicly burned to death. They should have conducted an investigation before pointing fingers. 

I think the Black Death spread easier back then because there was lack of communication. I bet if there were news and social media back then (minus the fake news, of course!), people would have been alerted and started taking precautions earlier, thus reducing the number of deaths.

In summary, this is an important event in history that every generation must learn, especially the budding doctors and politicians, so history won’t repeat itself. Along with the knowledge we have gathered and technology we have developed throughout the years, maybe, just maybe, we could eradicate all diseases especially communicable ones like the bubonic plague.

Of diseases, plague, and pandemic
The author

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The ELECTRON, Quezon City Science High School’s student publication. Minor edits have been made.)

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