Infectious Diseases: Influenza and the Bubonic Plagues

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Infectious Diseases: Influenza and the Bubonic Plagues


Since the Medieval period, human beings have always been experiencing different kinds of infectious diseases. Different types of the prologue from the past bring the discussion of the emerging infectious diseases, whether their debate concerns the origin of these infections as biological or according to their social repercussions. Medical science progress has made us less vulnerable to their devastation now than at any point in the past. Nevertheless, the current world experience with the new Corona Virus is a sobering reminder that severe microbial threats to health remain, and always we are never ready to respond to them. Before we approach the current situation already at hand, we need to understand that the world’s population still struggles against viral, protozoal, helminthic, bacterial, as well as fungal invaders. Before paying attention to finding ways on how to prevent the spread of the current disease, it is worth paying little heed to past experiences; the pandemic of the medieval period and the range of diseases like smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, influenza and bubonic plague in the medieval period. The experience demonstrates the potential danger of uncontrolled infectious diseases.

In this essay, we are going to focus on two well know infections that have been experienced from the past. In this context, we will, therefore, focus on influenza and the bubonic plagues. Among these diseases, bubonic plague is the most common, which is acquired directly when a person is bitten by an infected flea (Oaks et al., 1992). Once the insect bites a person, the infection causes pneumonic symptoms, which are then spread from one person to another through the respiratory route, septicemic, and meningeal, or plague meningeal. The bubonic disease is distinguished from another disease due to its unique sign that includes the formation of swollen lymph nodes that is known as buboes hence the name bubonic. The swollen lymph nodes are usually formed at different parts of the body, such as the groin, axilla, and around the neck. In half of all cases, untreated bubonic is fatal since untreated pneumonic plague is invariably fatal.

On the other hand, like the plague, for hundreds of years, influenza has caused infections and death among humans. Flu is distinguished from other diseases that die to its distinct symptoms. Its symptoms are familiar to everyone; fever, headache, chills, muscular aches, as well as cough (Mack et al., 2007). During the influenza pandemic, the elderly, children and those suffering from chronic diseases are considered to be at risk from this viral infection even though people recover fully in a matter of weeks. The origin of influenza that was recognized since 1918 remains in doubt, although it is thought to have erupted with the final stages of World War I in the United States in the same year (Oaks et al., 1992). During the period, the disease was recognized primarily to military camps as well as the crowded areas resulting in the death of a large number of young people.

It is well known that during the medieval period, people suffered from different kinds of diseases that erupted due to their way of life. During the middle ages, the environmental conditions in cities and towns were filthy. People live in an adult life due to a lack of knowledge of hygienic conditions that would assist in preventing any eruption of diseases. In this context, in cities and towns, sewers were open, and there was no knowledge to create drainage for wastewater. Due to this condition, cities served as a petri dish for diseases (Bossak & Welford, 2009). Dung, garbage, and animal carcasses, also, were dumped into the water sources, a condition that created a conducive environment for fleas, rats, and mice. Infectious diseases and plagues found a perfect environment that spreads hence affecting people who did not know how to prevent themselves. For instance, in 1348-1350, half of the population in England was killed by the plague that was known as Black-Death (Oaks et al., 1992). Apart from the Black Death or the Bubonic plague, many more diseases profoundly affected the medieval population because of the environmental conditions. Other epidemics that profoundly affected medieval cities were diseases like; smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, and influenza.

Due to unfavourable environmental conditions to support healthy living, human beings in the medieval cities and towns were differentiated according to their nature of duties (Bossak & Welford, 2009). There were people separated according to those who work, pray and others who were fighters. The fact remained that there was no knowledge for germs or that a disease can be spread among individuals. Churches, in this context, described these diseases as God’s way of punishing people due to their sinful nature of living (Bossak & Welford, 2009). People in the medieval ages lived a miserable life where they only used cold water and soap to clean their bodies, a condition that played little role in preventing infections. There was a distinction of social classes as the rich among people were able to pay for ailment treatment from herbal physicians.

Even though people from the medieval ages had little or no knowledge concerning various infections that erupted in time to time, they had traditional methods to curb the spread of plagues whenever they occurred. When epidemics such as bubonic occurred, they improvised strategies such as isolation (Bossak & Welford, 2009). People quarantined in their cities and towns to prevent the spread and contraction of diseases that were very deadly. This fact shows that people in the medieval ages had a clear understanding that quarantine would be very effective in preventing the spread of contagious diseases. From this notion, the measures that were utilized back then, they were active. The effectiveness of their means of preventing the spread of infections can clearly be understood from the fact that, in the current days, nations are quarantining to avoid the spread of the Novel Corona Virus that has become an international pandemic.

Far from the medieval period, infectious diseases have been a significant threat to human beings in the 21st Century (Guan et al., 2020). The fact remains that, even though in the 21st Century people are more advanced, have changed ways of living, hygiene is not something to be taught or a healthy way of life (Guan et al., 2020). Therefore to prevent infectious diseases can be achieved in different means. However, we have seen from the experience that contagious diseases are not something that can be predicted; hence once they occur, people die before a cure is generated. For instance, currently, the world is fighting against the spread of the new Corona Virus, an infectious disease that was discovered in Wuhan China in November 2019. The disease has spread to every corner of the world, forcing the World Health Organization to declare it an international pandemic (Guan et al., 2020). Corona Virus is an influenza disease that is said that it comes after people eat contaminated food in China. The health fraternity reported it was an influenza disease that was come from bat species to human beings. The condition is spread through direct contact with an infected person or resulting in interaction with any droplets from the infected individual either through coughing or touching contaminated surfaces with precipitations from the diseased individual. Since the illness was declared as the world pandemic, it has caused many deaths to people of all ages, mostly the elderly and those living with chronic diseases. In the U.S., the Morbidity and Impermanence level as estimated by WHO is at 1.3%. This rate shows that the disease is deadly, and more protective measures should be taken (Guan et al., 2020).

In my opinion, the treatment of this infectious disease would be more effective if there would be thorough testing done to all citizens. After testing is done, those infected should be quarantined separately. Those who have come into contact with the infected people should then to be quarantined in another area awaiting another test in 14 days while in quarantine. The negative people to stay indoors for a short time to prevent the spread of the disease further. In addition, people should ensure they improvise hygienic habit of regular hand cleaning and sanitizing regularly whenever they come into contact with suspicious surfaces.

According to Medieval doctor John of Gadesen, recommends that health workers should understand their responsibility while dealing with this infectious disease (Bossak & Welford, 2009). On the same he recommends for fascination over the disease to prevent more infections. And he on the same recommends on proper hygiene as it proper and living condition should be taken care of to prevent spread of the disease. These recommendations are effective since curbing and preventing spread of infectious disease such as Covid-19 need to be taken care of before it is affects high population (Bossak & Welford, 2009). From the different means of disease treatment and prevention in the medieval period, we can learn a lot since they as well prevented the spreading and in as well people used to get healed. For instance in this context, people should engage quarantine and give more emphases on the same to prevent the spread of the infectious disease as people in the medieval age did to control spread of diseases.

In response to the Bubonic plague of 1300s, Gieovanni Boccaccio Italian writer who lived during the plague season as it emaciated the city of Florence in 1348, shares great knowledge on infectious diseases. Gieovanni wrote the book by title, ‘Decameron’ that involved the experience of people who after a plague struck the city they escaped to live outside the city (Boccaccio & Mannelli, 1813).


From the above, the leaner will be able to understand how different infectious disease has developed since the medieval period to the current date. People in the medieval period were highly affected by various diseases such as small pox, measles, tuberculosis, influenza and bubonic plague. It is discovered that this diseases affected the medieval cities due to their way of live and lack of knowledge on hygiene. Infectious diseases have affected humanity to this date where we have discovered that in the present date the world is suffering from the new infectious disease, Corona Virus. Based on this knowledge, much research is needed to find ways to prevent and deal with infectious diseases whenever they occur.




Boccaccio, G., & Mannelli, F. (1813). Il Decameron. Vol. 2. Vitarelli.

Bossak, B. H., & Welford, M. R. (2009). Did medieval trade activity and a viral etiology control           the spatial extent and seasonal distribution of Black Death mortality?. Medical    Hypotheses72(6), 749-752.

Guan, W. J., Ni, Z. Y., Hu, Y., Liang, W. H., Ou, C. Q., He, J. X., … & Du, B. (2020). Clinical           characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infection in China. MedRxiv.

Mack, A., Choffnes, E. R., Sparling, P. F., Hamburg, M. A., & Lemon, S. M. (Eds.).             (2007). Ethical and legal considerations in mitigating pandemic disease: workshop        summary. National Academies Press.

Oaks Jr, S. C., Shope, R. E., & Lederberg, J. (Eds.). (1992). Emerging infections: microbial        threats to health in the United States. National Academies Press.