Shedding Light on the Black Death
By: Maggie Koerth-Baker
Seven hundred years ago, millions of Europeans were wiped out by a disease we still don’t entirely understand. The Black Death might seem like a pretty open-and-shut case at this point: It was caused by plague-bearing fleas that hitched rides on the rats that infested a grim and grimy medieval world. The End.
But that simplified version only makes sense if you overlook some important facts about how the plague (which still exists) operates today. “The Black Death killed between 30 and 50 percent of the affected population,” says Sharon DeWitte, assistant professor of anthropology and biology at The University of South Carolina. “Modern plague, at most, kills between 2 and 3 percent, and that’s even in areas without access to modern medicine.”
See the video for a full introspective on the Black Death Plague: