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Did The Plague Pick Its Victims?

By KJ Mullins     Jan 29, 2008 in Health
Was the Black Death really the bubonic plague or could it have been caused by a viral hemorrhagic fever? Did the disease pick out its victims depending on their overall health? It appears that being frail did make a difference when it came to the illness.
Some researchers think that the pandemic that took the lives of about 75 million people could have actually been a virus that could be compared to today's Ebola or dengue viruses. Other researchers still believe that the plague was caused by a virus caused by the bite of an infected flea.
It appears from recent findings that how healthy a person was to begin with had a factor if a person survived their ordeal. While the disease did kill those of good health experts are saying that the vast numbers of the dead suggest that malnutrition or those in already ill health had little defense against the rapid disease.
The new theories come from a study of 490 skeletons that were analysized from victims of the Black Death in London by two United States researchers.
Anthropologist Sharon DeWitte of the University of Albany in New York worked with the remains from East Smithfield cemetery in London. The skeletons were excavated in the 1980's for the expressed purpose of studying plague. The skeletons revealed that many of those who died had health problems prior to the plague.
By using the proportion of those who were in frail health prior to infection and those who appeared to be in good health it can be indicated that the plague hit those who were already ill more often than healthy people.
"On average, it killed between 30 to 50 percent of affected populations. But we know that there were some areas where mortality was even higher. So there would have been villages that were completely wiped out," DeWitte said.
The Bubonic plague still kills 100 to 200 people a year.
More about Bubonic plague, Black death, Health victims