Another Teaching Moment
About Times Past

Let me get all my cards out on the table and all facing up. I am not a medical doctor, medical researcher, immunologist, infectious disease professional, or bacteriologist. Unlike our fake president, I listen to the people with backgrounds in the issues facing America and the rest of the entire world due to the coronavirus (COVED-19). Making statements about the coronavirus being under control by Easter is certainly one of the stupidest things Trump has said. When he has press conferences every day or so proves, they are merely a means to show the world just how dumb he is. Donald the Dumb is my name for him. He doesn’t grasp anything other than that he wants to be reelected. Yo, Donald, that isn’t going to help. Just allow the experts to tell America what we need to know.

I’m still teaching a couple online classes. At 77, I enjoy teaching. Therefore, this teaching moment addresses earlier pandemics and how they relate to the coronavirus (COVID-19). There are a handful of major pandemics starting with the Justinian Plague from 541-542. Justinian was the ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire located in Constantinople, which is new Istanbul.

Aside from the plague, Justinian was an interesting person since he wanted to become the ruler of the new Roman Empire in the wake of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. You can see that in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. The interior of San Vitale is filled with large mosaics done in the style of the Eastern Empire. That art style makes all painting and mosaics look flat due to lack of dimensionality. San Vitale was built in honor of Justinian. These are the faces of Emperor Justinian and Theodora from the two large mosaics of them. Theodora was his interesting wife. However, while I love teaching art history, this teaching moment is about the pandemic.

Justinian and Theodora at San Vitale, Ravenna

The cause of the pandemic was due to fleas, which infested the rats of the local merchants. When the cargo was taken off the ships in Constantinople, rats were offloaded along with the cargo. The rats, in turn, were infested by the Oriental rat flea. Yersinia pestis was the bacteria that caused the Justinian Plague. The death toll of the Justinian Plague was 25-100 million people.

Oriental rat flea

The Black Death or the Bubonic Plague (from the Latin bubo meaning swelling of lymph glands and from Greek boubon meaning swelling in the groin) visited Europe in 1347-1353 with a death toll of up to 50 million people. It came to Europe in a similar manner as did the Justinian Plague. Instead of offloading cargo in Constantinople, it was due to ships coming from Crimea but starting again in Constantinople/Istanbul.

The Black Death map of Europe

Since they didn’t understand science, they came up with a variety of treatments for the Black Death. Some believed that God was punishing people for sinning. That group of sinners included Jews, gypsies, or witches, which resulted in killing many thousands of innocent people. When that didn’t work, they would take baths in urine or menstrual blood.

They also had doctors who used bloodletting to get the bad blood out of the infected people. They thought that eating pigeons and snakes was a good treatment or putting them on affected parts of one’s body. They also drank arsenic, mercury, vinegar, or herbs.

The Plague doctor

The Italian Plague or the Great Plague of Milan occurred between 1629-1631. Essentially, it was the return of the Black Death resulting in the deaths of 25% of Italy. It was due to the Northern European troops fighting in Northern Italy during the Thirty Years’ War.

The Italian Plague

The Great Plague of London occurred in 1665-1666 and paralleled the earlier plagues. Scholars believe that it came from the Netherlands in their cotton exports.

Great Plague of London

By this time, they had discovered that people transmitted the plague once the plague arrived. Therefore, they began quarantining shipping both from across the English Channel and within London.

In 1720, the Great Plague of Marseille was visited again with the Black Death with a death toll of 100,000. By this time, the city had a Sanitation Board, which was in charge of inspecting incoming ships to the harbor. If the inspectors found any problems, they weren’t allowed to dock. Additionally, they quarantined all ships for no less than eighteen days, even if the inspectors didn’t find any suspicious problems onboard the vessel.

The Great Plague of Marseille

The Third Plague occurred in 1855 in Yunnan, China. The term, third, referred to the Justinian Plague being the first and the Black Death being the second. The Third Plague killed 10 million in China and India, but it spread throughout the world. Nevertheless, the epicenter was primarily in Mongolia and Manchuria. However, there were recorded deaths in Russia in 1927.

This is a photo of the quarantine people in Karachi, Pakistan.

Therefore, this teaching moment covers a millennium and a half of pandemics. We live in a time now that we replicate the bacteria involved in a pandemic and develop a vaccine to combat it. Medical science has come a long way in understanding pandemics. However, we still have people like Donald the Dumb and those like him. Once we address the COVID-19, we need to do research into why some people think that they are all-wise without the medical background. In a couple of weeks, Trump will be in church along with millions of other Americans. Happy Easter to all.