Western Civ’s most infamous encounter with pandemic disease, so far, was the big first wave of the Black Death that had a marathon run from 1346 to 1353. That bug was the real deal. It killed folks left and right, every age group, every social station, and it killed them ugly. Few who caught it survived. Up to half the population of Europe perished, along with a lot of their social and economic ways.
The cause of the Black Death was subject to every possible explanation except the actual one, Yersina pestis, a bacterium associated with rats and their insect parasites, fleas and lice, who also enjoyed an association with humans living in the generally squalid conditions of the day — the ancient Roman habit of bathing long forgotten. At the top of their list of causes was an angry God, and his wicked erstwhile subordinate, Satan. The “experts” of that time tended to cluster in the church hierarchy, with its drear obsessions and compulsions. The squishy boundary between the supernatural and reality loosed all manner of derangement.
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