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Bubonic plague versus influenza Essay

The bubonic plague, also called the Black Death, was considered the largest demographic disaster in the history of Europe. It arrived in Italy in late 1347 through its clockwise movement across the continent fizzling out in the Russian remote areas in 1353 (Routt). It had killed about eight million people (Routt). Before the bubonic plague, Europe was already intensifying food production because of the expansion of its population from approximately 25 million in the year 700 A. D. to approximately 75 million in 1250 (Dudgeon).

The Black Death is known as yersinia pestis, a bacterium that caused the bubonic plague (Dudgeon). Bubonic plague started with the bite of infected fleas which inhabited the rats and then resulted to a blackish rash followed by swellings in the neck, groin, or armpits (Dudgeon). It returned several times between 1348 and 1427 and over the next 100 years continued to cause death between 10 and 15% of each new population, effectively eliminating the food crisis in Europe (Dudgeon). There are several social effects of the bubonic plague that triggered the emergence of capitalism and the age of colonialism in Europe (Dudgeon).

These include the acceleration of the elimination of feudalism and the tributary mode of production because of the sudden decline in the peasant population, which led to intense labor shortages in the agricultural sector; shortage of customers faced by merchants or traders, which led to an increase in long-distance trading and colonialism; depopulation; death of several priests and clerics; change in the way people perceived about nature; and the introduction of the mechanistic view of modern science (Dudgeon).

Prior to the bubonic plague, increasing population had caused peasants to receive low wages and experience high rents and prices, an economic situation that benefited landlords who were encouraging several peasants to stick to humiliating but secure dependent tenure (Routt). The bubonic plague shifted the balance in favor of peasants causing the literate elite populations to complain about the collapse of social and economic order (Routt). It also led to an increase in wages from 12 to 20, an eight percent increase from the 1340s to the 1350s and 20 percent from the 1340s to the 1360s (Routt).

The supply of currency in silver and gold rose on a per capita basis, which in turned resulted to significant inflation in prices that did not lessen in England until the middle of 1370 and even at the end of 1370 in various places of the continent (Routt). The inflation also led to a significant decrease in the purchasing power of the wage laborers (Routt). Various services remarkably minimized by the bubonic plague provided a chance for servile peasants to bargain for less burdensome responsibilities and better conditions (Routt).

The death of several priests and clerics caused the erosion of the practice of using Latin as the universal language of the Church and scholarships because of a shortage of Latin speakers and the emergence of more individualistic religions, which were more consistent with the principles of capitalism (Dudgeon). This paved the way for the protestant reformation and the collapse of the Christian religion into various sects or denominations (Dudgeon). The depopulation of Europe led to the modification of how people conceive of time, which started to determine the pace of life, and provided an opportunity to recover from overpopulation (Dudgeon).

The plague also provided a chance for Europe to lessen its reliance on forests and soils, allowing the regeneration of forests and recovery of soil fertility, since prior the plague, the region’s forests were being utilized at unsustainable rate for cooking, heat and industry (Dudgeon). Lastly, the bubonic plague provided a room for Europe to have a second wave of expansion and intensification of its population, which led to the birth of capitalism and to the industrial revolution (Dudgeon). The influenza epidemic in 1918-1919 caused the death of about 40 million people around the world and 675,000 people in the United States.

It was considered the most devastating epidemic recorded in the world history and unique because the influenza was most deadly for men and women ages 20 to 44, which led to a significant high mortality rate in the prime working individuals (Billings, 1997). Thousands of people died of influenza in just one year than in four years of the bubonic plague that occurred from 1347 to 1351 (Billings, 1997).. The first wave of epidemic was believed to start in a military camp located at Camp Funston, Kansas in March 1918.

It then spread across the United States and then reached Europe by early 1918 apparently due to the arrival of American troop ships to join the fight against the Germans (Billings, 1997). Half of the American soldiers who died in Europe were caused by the influenza virus (Billings, 1997). The influenza pandemic had spread across India, New Zealand, and Australia in July 1918. The second wave of the pandemic started in August 1918 in Freetown, Sierra Leone; Brest, France; and Boston, Massachusetts. The third wave began in early 1919 affecting mainly Wales and England, Australia and other nations located in the southern hemisphere.

The ideal conditions for the transmission of influenza were the overcrowding of military camps and ships. The influenza patients suffered over accumulation of bloody fluid in their lungs, usually with severe complications brought by pneumonia. Since a disproportionate number of deaths among men and women ages 20 to 44, the influenza epidemic had adversely impacted human fertility and the formation of family for several years after the end of the influence pandemic. The average life span in the United States was reduced by 10 years (Billings, 1997).

The mortality rate for people ages 15 to 34 who were suffering with influenza and pneumonia was 20 times higher in 1918 than in previous years (Billings, 1997). The influenza epidemic also resulted to a shortage of physicians, particularly in the civilian sector because they had been lost for service with the military (Billings, 1997). A National Committee on Influenza was established by Red Cross in order to have the maximum utilization of nurses (Billings, 1997). The Red Cross had to request local businesses to allow their workers to have a rest day if they volunteer in the hospitals at night (Billings, 1997).

The pandemic affected everyone even United States President Woodrow Wilson who also suffered the disease in early 1919 while negotiating the treaty of Versailles to terminate the World War (Billings, 1997). Some towns implemented a requirement for passengers to have a signed certificate and those individuals who refused to follow the flu ordinances had to pay heavy fines (Billings, 1997). The pandemic resulted only to temporary disturbance to the economy of the United States, maybe due to the declining consumer confidence as well as bankruptcies and business closures brought by the deaths of several business owners and workers.

States that suffered the highest death rates may have gone through the biggest declines in per capita income by 1919-1920. The pandemic started during the later stages of World War 1 when nationalism permeated as people recognized government authority (Billings, 1997). Science was regarded highly important during the war as governments depended on scientists to develop vaccines and decrease the rates of disease mortalities and battle wounds (Billings, 1997). The people supported strict measures and allowed loss of their freedom during the war as they considered the needs of the nation first before their personal needs (Billings, 1997).

Scientific and medical experts had designed new theories and used them to prevent, diagnose and treat the influenza patients (Billings, 1997). References Billings, M. (1997). The influenza pandemic of 1918. Retrieved July 2, 2009, from http://virus. stanford. edu/uda/ Dudgeon, R. C. The bubonic plague: Origins and impacts. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from http://www. helium. com/items/919700-the-bubonic-plague-origins-and-impacts Routt, D. The economic impact of the Black Death. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from http://eh. net/encyclopedia/article/Routt. Black. Death


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