June 9, 2008
Reading John Kelly’s “The Great Mortality” last week reminded me of a thought experiment that I have to go through every time I think about the Black Death.
Given what we know about infectious disease and the transmission methods of plague (via flea bites; directly contagious in its pneumatic form, etc.), if you were plunked down in the 14th century right now, as you are, do you think that you could avoid coming down with the plague? Or at least have a better chance? Or would the filth surrounding you make you as easy a target as anyone else?
I have these dark visions of scrubbing the dirt floor of my hut until my body hurts, scrubbing my clothes, boiling my bed linens, avoiding piles of dead people, not letting anyone “bleed” me…but is this just me fooling myself that I’d be in any way immune?
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