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Frank Hovis

Bubonic Plague Is Back

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Peru suffers deadly outbreak of bubonic and pneumonic plague

An outbreak of bubonic and pneumonic plague in Peru has killed a 14-year-old boy and infected at least 31 people in a northern coastal province.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/peru/7925151/Peru-suffers-deadly-outbreak-of-bubonic-and-pneumonic-plague.html

Was anybody else under the misapprehension that this had died out?

Won't be booking my Peruvian trip just yet.

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/peru/7925151/Peru-suffers-deadly-outbreak-of-bubonic-and-pneumonic-plague.html

Was anybody else under the misapprehension that this had died out?

Won't be booking my Peruvian trip just yet.

How's that supposed to help? In these days of fly-anywhere-all-the-time, you don't have to travel for exotic diseases: someone'll bring them here.

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/peru/7925151/Peru-suffers-deadly-outbreak-of-bubonic-and-pneumonic-plague.html

Was anybody else under the misapprehension that this had died out?

Won't be booking my Peruvian trip just yet.

No, its still around. Caused some trouble in India a few years back. However, bubonic plague probably didn't cause the Black Death, which was probably something similar to Ebola. I'm not sure what the scientific consensus is on this, and I don't think the matter is settled either way.

One more thing - plague is fairly easy to treat. Ebola type diseases are incurable, as far as I know.

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didn't we half suggest that the black death could have been similar to an airborne/rat carried version of aids (due to the fact that 10% of Europeans are immune/resistant to HIV)?

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<br />I'd have remembered mocking that idea.<br />
I remember suggesting the idea, and I remember you mocking it.. ;p  Never go Head to Head with a scientist (mmm..beer is the expert) in her chosen field.

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Guest Skinty

First hit on google for "black death bubonic plague ebola" comes up with some interesting points

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/black-death-was-caused-by-the-ebola-virus-678675.html

Professor Duncan said people soon learnt that the only effective way of dealing with the Black Death was to put affected families and even entire villages into quarantine for 40 days. "A quarantine period was first instituted in the city states of northern Italy in the late 14th century and this was gradually adopted throughout Europe and maintained for the next 300 years until the plague disappeared," professors Duncan and Scott say in their book Biology of Plagues.

A quarantine would not have been effective if the disease was spread by rat fleas," said Professor Duncan. "Rats don't respect quarantines. This disease was transmitted directly from person to person which suggests an infectious virus."

Bubonic plagues spread in a complex fashion because they rely on the interaction of fleas, rats and people. Yet the pattern of spread of the Black Death was relatively simple and predictable, indicating person-to-person transmission.

"Endemic bubonic plague is essentially a rural disease because it is an infection of rodents," the book says. "The Black Death, in contrast, struck indiscriminately in the countryside and towns."

The symptoms of the Black Death point to a haemorrhagic fever caused by an Ebola-like virus. The fever struck suddenly, it caused aching and bleeding from internal organs, as well as red blotches caused by the effusion of blood under the skin – classic symptoms of Ebola-like illnesses.

Professor Duncan said there was further evidence to back his theory in the form of a mutation in a key gene – called CCR5 – involved in conferring some protection against HIV. Scientists have found that this mutation arose only in Europe at about the time of the Black Death and its high frequency suggests it probably offered resistance against the virus.

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"A quarantine would not have been effective if the disease was spread by rat fleas," said Professor Duncan. "Rats don't respect quarantines. This disease was transmitted directly from person to person which suggests an infectious virus."

This reads like rubbish to me. If quarantine's "only effective way of dealing with the Black Death" how come 1/3 - 1/2 of the european population perished?

How come they were needed for 300 years?

The noble prof is no doubt very good at figuring out what's going on with genes but less so at applying that knowledge.

Typical prof, what?

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"Endemic bubonic plague is essentially a rural disease because it is an infection of rodents," the book says. "The Black Death, in contrast, struck indiscriminately in the countryside and towns."

That also seems odd; there would surely have been a much higher density of rats in medieval London, than in a medieval hamlet.

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Guest Skinty

On the other hand they probably wouldn't have started quarantining unless it actually worked. It probably wasn't fully 100% effective because of an incubation period whereby a carrier had already left before the quarantine was set up. Not to mention that the authorities would have been much slower to quarantine then than they would now.

I agree about the rural rats thing though. There should be more in the city.

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"A quarantine would not have been effective if the disease was spread by rat fleas," said Professor Duncan. "Rats don't respect quarantines. This disease was transmitted directly from person to person which suggests an infectious virus."

This reads like rubbish to me. If quarantine's "only effective way of dealing with the Black Death" how come 1/3 - 1/2 of the european population perished?

How come they were needed for 300 years?

The noble prof is no doubt very good at figuring out what's going on with genes but less so at applying that knowledge.

Typical prof, what?

The typical professors I have met are so much smarter than everyone else, at least in their chosen fields, that I understand why people have to invent cliches about them being 'absent minded' or 'impractical', in order to defend their egos.

I don't see any contradiction between saying the quarantine was effective, and yet 1/2 the population still died. For one thing, he says that quarantine was introduced gradually across Europe, leaving lots of time for people to die. Most importantly though, saying something is effective only means it has an effect. It doesn't mean it completely stops the spread of the disease. Radiotherapy is effective, people still die of cancer.

As to rats in cities, its an assumption that cities are home to more rats than rural areas. I don't know if that is true today, although I would guess it is. I have absolutely no idea whether there were more rats in medieval cities or in the country. Considering that most of the population probably lived in rural areas, and that the inhabited part of the countryside was mostly used for food production and storage, rather than golf and paintball centres, I can certainly believe it.

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As to rats in cities, its an assumption that cities are home to more rats than rural areas. I don't know if that is true today, although I would guess it is. I have absolutely no idea whether there were more rats in medieval cities or in the country. Considering that most of the population probably lived in rural areas, and that the inhabited part of the countryside was mostly used for food production and storage, rather than golf and paintball centres, I can certainly believe it.

An assumption indeed, but one that seems less of a leap (and less vague) than the contrary assumption that professors Duncan and Scott make:

"Endemic bubonic plague is essentially a rural disease because it is an infection of rodents"

Maybe they're saying it's down to rabbits ... I'll buy that there are more rabbits in the countryside :)

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"On the other hand they probably wouldn't have started quarantining unless it actually worked."

Doctors were bleeding people well into the 19th century thinking it "worked", when it didn't.

People do a lot of stuff they think works but doesn't.

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"I understand why people have to invent cliches about them being 'absent minded' or 'impractical', in order to defend their egos."

Since you don't seem to be fond of thinking for yourself I can understand why you think this. A little goes a long way for some.

Let me give you an example, your words,

"I have absolutely no idea whether there were more rats in medieval cities or in the country."

It is the height of ignorance to have absolutely no idea on this point. Indeed if you were to think about it you'd know the answer perfectly well. You know that Medieval London was a tiny fraction of its current size. You probably don't know it only extended from the Tower to what is now Blackfriars (It was Baynard's Castle back then but no matter.) and from the river to what? .... the Barbican. Anyway it was tiny by comparison with now, just like every other town in medieval land.

So since urban areas constituted less than what, 0.01% of the landmass and most "urban" areas were town or village not city it's blinking obvious there were more rats in the country than medieval cities.

If you had a bit more ego, you might do a bit more thinking.

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"On the other hand they probably wouldn't have started quarantining unless it actually worked."

Doctors were bleeding people well into the 19th century thinking it "worked", when it didn't.

People do a lot of stuff they think works but doesn't.

I've often wondered whether it worked for staph infections by depleting heme iron...of course it was then applied to lots of other things in for which it did not work, but never mind. If bacterial infections were a major source of morbidity/mortality in those times (as I suspect they were), blood letting might have been better than doing nothing on average.

In summary, I'm not convinced that it was such a crazy idea.

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"I have absolutely no idea whether there were more rats in medieval cities or in the country."

It is the height of ignorance to have absolutely no idea on this point. Indeed if you were to think about it you'd know the answer perfectly well. You know that Medieval London was a tiny fraction of its current size. You probably don't know it only extended from the Tower to what is now Blackfriars (It was Baynard's Castle back then but no matter.) and from the river to what? .... the Barbican. Anyway it was tiny by comparison with now, just like every other town in medieval land.

So since urban areas constituted less than what, 0.01% of the landmass and most "urban" areas were town or village not city it's blinking obvious there were more rats in the country than medieval cities.

If you had a bit more ego, you might do a bit more thinking.

Erm, you don't seem to be thinking very deeply either. It isn't the absolute number that is important, it is the proximity and frequency of interactions with people, together with dispersal rates. There can be a 1000 rats in one country house, but if they hardly disperse they aren't going to the next manor 10 miles away. On the other hand, if there are half a dozen rats in a terrace house, you can bet that the neighbours will come into contact with them.

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"Erm, you don't seem to be thinking very deeply either .... "

Erm you completely misunderstand my point, which is entirely your fault because my point is perfectly clear.

And it's not about whether rats spread plague but about thinking.

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"Erm, you don't seem to be thinking very deeply either .... "

Erm you completely misunderstand my point, which is entirely your fault because my point is perfectly clear.

And it's not about whether rats spread plague but about thinking.

You misinterpreted what she was saying. It was clear, if not elegantly stated.

I didn't miss your point. It was pointless, pedantic and trite. She was clearly referring to density.

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[pedant] Rabbits aren't rodents, they're lagomorphs [/pedant]

Thanks, you learn something every day. Let's change it to field mice, then B)

[edit for better example]

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Guest Skinty

Of course if it was an Ebola type virus then this begs the question of whether something similar can arise again. I read "Epidemic: The Past, Present and Future of the Diseases That Made Us " last year which talks about how we are being threatened with new viruses all the time. We have had a few near-misses already (SARS) as well as some that have gone on to be a major problem (e.g. AIDS).

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Doctors were bleeding people well into the 19th century thinking it "worked", when it didn't.

Leeches still popular it seems (link).

Early in the 20th century doctors discarded leeches as having no place in modern medicine. But today leeches are back, helping to heal skin grafts.

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  • 145 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
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      • up 5%



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