Peoples reaction to the plague were different: some gave themselves over to self-flagellation in an attempt to atone for whatever sin caused God to visit such death upon humanity. Others, though, gave themselves over to hedonism and vice figuring that they minus well live whatever life they had to the fullest.
Death Toll: Europe was about 50% overall but certain areas, such as small villages, were completely decimated.
Because only a tiny fraction of the population– 10-15%– could read and write, only a small view of the plague survives. Most of the recollections are lost to time.
In the 6th century, the plague of Justinian decimated what was left of the Western Roman Empire. Then, in the 19th century in Asia, plague once again surfaced and it was this plague that helped us to understand the plague that occurred in the sixth century.
In 1894, Canton, China. This was where scientists would learn about the previous plagues; what they found was this: it originates in animals and then infects the human population; in the case of plague, this means rats acted as the carriers for fleas which then jumped onto humans– when they were desperate for food– and bite them, thus transferring the plague to humans.
If you are bitten and infected with a flea that has been infected and infective with plague, what happens? Well, large swollen areas develop around the lymph nodes, groin, and armpits. These are called buboes; this is the bubonic strain. This form of the plague has an 18% chance survival rate. (Fun fact: an estimated 18-20% of people who are descended from the survivors of the medieval plague, have a natural immunity to HIV-AIDS.) This form of plague was relatively impossible to transfer to humans unless the hemorrhoids were lanced.
Phuenomtic Strain: 2nd most common form which infected the host’s respiratory system. Starts with the bubonic form that reaches one’s respiratory system. This form is easily transferable from person-to-person (spit, blood, etc.). Early forms of hazmat suits were developed by perceptive doctors to help protect against transmission; this was where the iconic bird-like masks of certain doctors emerged. Method of death was due to drowning in one’s own blood; duration from point of infection till death: two days. Less than 1% survival rate.
Sectesemtic Strain: least common form. This is where the victim’s blood becomes infected. In this form, tiny blood clots begin to form throughout the body and ultimately cause body tissue to die off due to lack of circulation. In advanced forms, the blood loses its ability to clot and begins to seep into one’s internal organs. This produces rashy and patchy red and black “pimples” on one’s skin (this was thought to be what medieval people spoke of when they talked of someone having the “sign” of the plague). A final indicator of this form of plague was the vomiting of blood. Death may occur within 24 hours of showing symptoms.