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|The Middle Ages|
An epidemic of the bubonic plague known as the Black Death struck Europe and many parts of Asia between 1347 and 1351. The plague was spread by rats and other rodents, and spread rapidly along trade routes and especially the Silk Road. It originated amongst the Mongols in Asia, who carelessly allowed their sacks of food to be exposed to rats and fleas that carried the fatal disease. Traders brought it with them into the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. In four short years, 40 to 45% of the European population was lost to the plague, especially the poor. The Mongols amplified the problem by using catapults to toss plague-ridden bodies over city walls. The modern world is not the first to use biological warfare.
The fatality rate was even higher in China, where an estimated 25 million died from it. It took 100 years for Europe and China to recover, and a longer period of time for Islamic countries and the Middle East. Egypt was hit particularly hard, with some areas not recovering for 500 years.
The germ theory of disease had not been discovered, so nobody could figure out what was causing people to catch and die from the disease. How do you know if you have the disease? Here are the symptoms. Three to seven days after an infection, the person experiences initial symptoms of chills, fever, diarrhea, headaches, and the swelling of the infected lymph nodes. If it is untreated, 30-75% of those who contract the plague die.
The plague weakened the Catholic Church, which appeared helpless to stop it. After the plague began to subside in the 1350s, there were severe worker shortages and even rebellions as workers demanded higher pay. The devastation to the serf population weakened the force behind the success of the manors and contributed greatly to the end of feudalism. The plague also created a demand for more centralized government that could respond effectively to disease.