You call that a plague? I’ll show you a plague

If you want to know what the real thing is like, look at the following by James Hankins from Quillete: Social Distancing During the Black Death.

Every morning bodies of the dead—husbands, wives, children, servants—were pushed out into the street where they were piled on stretchers, later on carts. They were carried to the nearest church for a quick blessing, then trundled to graveyards outside the city for burial. As the death toll rose, traditional burial practices were abandoned. Deep trenches were dug into which bodies were dumped in layers with a thin covering of soil shoveled on top. Boccaccio writes that “no more respect was accorded the dead than would today be shown to dead goats.”

Like COVID-19, the disease spread with bewildering rapidity, but unlike in the modern pandemic, it infected everyone, young and old, rich and poor, not mainly the old and infirm. And again unlike the current virus, the effects of bubonic plague were particularly humiliating. Tumor-like growths as big as apples, called “bubos,” would appear in the groin or armpit. Gangrenous blotches would appear on hands and feet causing the skin to turn black and die. The victims would start coughing up blood, all their bodily fluids stank and their breath became putrid. “The stench of dead bodies, sickness and medicines seemed to fill and pollute the whole atmosphere.” There was no dying with dignity during the Black Death….

Everyone ran in panic from the sick. Neighbors shunned neighbors, relatives relatives. Children abandoned elderly parents and priests their flocks. Incredibly, “even fathers and mothers refused to nurse and assist their own children, as though they did not belong to them.” Some reacted by locking themselves up with a few friends in some comfortable place stocked with food and fine wines. They would entertain themselves with music and refuse to receive any news of the dead. Others, often those without the means to escape, became fatalistic and began looting the houses of the dead, stuffing themselves with food and drink, heedless of the risks of infection.

We really have become an addled civilisation. If we aren’t tougher than this, we will not survive whatever might be the outcome from the Chinese Flu of the moment.

What me worry? – the Ebola edition

I somehow seem to miss a sense of urgency, probably because any suggestion that Ebola is a potential catastrophe would emphasise that Obama has been tragically incompetent. So what are we to make of Matt Ridley’s article yesterday, Beat Ebola or face a pandemic as bad as the Black Death. He begins:

IT is not often I find myself agreeing with apocalyptic warnings, but the west African Ebola epidemic deserves hyperbole right now.

Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Ebola emergency response mission, says: “Time is our enemy. The virus is far ahead of us.”

David Nabarro, special envoy of the UN secretary-general, says of Ebola: “I have never encountered a public health crisis like this in my life.”

Then there’s this today, Is Ebola the Same Virus as the Black Death? This one begins:

Most people assume that the fourteenth-century Black Death that quickly ravaged the western world was a bacterial bubonic plague epidemic caused by flea bites and spread by rats. But the Black Death killed a high proportion of Scandinavians where it was too cold for fleas to survive. “Biology of Plagues. Evidence from Historical Populations” published by Cambridge University Press, analyzed 2,500 years of plagues and concluded that the Black Death was caused by a viral hemorrhagic fever pandemic similar to Ebola. If this is correct, the future medical and economic impacts from Ebola have been vastly underestimated.

And finally, the comforting list of headlines at Drudge:

Hospital Cafeteria Abandoned…
WHO predicts 10,000 new cases — per week…
Death rate reaches 70%…
Researchers say more in USA based on flight patterns…
LA bus driver quarantined after passenger yells: ‘I have Ebola!’
TX College ‘Not Accepting International Students From Countries With Confirmed Cases’…

My father-in-law never knew his own father because his father died in the same month in which he was born, November 1918, during the first influenza epidemic that killed twenty million at the end of World War I. Funny times we live in where the possibility of a worldwide pandemic is news that comes below the fold.