Research, Technology

"A Plague on Both Your Houses": Why are the diseases of the past returning?

In the very near future, there will be8 billionth inhabitant of the Earth. In connection with the upcoming event, many talk about overpopulation and it is difficult to disagree with them: in 1927, only two billion people lived on the planet. But after wars, revolutions and epidemics, there were even more of us. In such cases, when one species becomes invasive (i.e., a species that threatens biodiversity), nature steps in, armed with viruses and bacteria. So, on account of the plague alone, at least 25 million lives. And although many believe that the Black Death is a disease from the distant past, this is not so. In recent years, foci of infection have been identified on all continents, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica, and most often the plague attacks Mongolia, African countries and China. Recently, in the northwestern region of the Celestial Empire, a case of human infection with bubonic plague was revealed. Is the world threatened by a new pandemic?

The plague was one of the deadliest diseases in history - until we found a cure.

Black Death. This is the name given to the first wave of the plague that swept across Europe in the 1300s.


  • 1 Overpopulation problem
  • 2 Where did the Black Death come from?
  • 3 Plague: how it was
  • 4 Plague in the 21st century
  • 5 Plague in Russia

Overpopulation problem

That there are too many people on the planet, according to the sixth assessment reportInternational Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The paper states that population growth contributes to the emission of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Alas, our planet cannot support the unlimited reproduction of people. Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) spoke about this back in 1989, when they established World Population Day to raise awareness about this problem.

Earlier in July, the UN published a report undertitled World Population Prospects 2022, which predicts that by November 15, 2022, the population will reach 8 billion people. The researchers also report that in 2023, India will become the most populous country in the world.

In the last century alone, the population has grown 3.7 times

You can read about what a world with a population of 10 billion people will be like here.

According to the forecast, in 2030 the population of the Earthcould grow to 8.5 billion people; in 2050, 9.7 billion will live on the planet; in 2080, the world population will be about 10.4 billion people and will remain at this level until 2100. Important role in the coming population explosion The Philippines, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania will play.

But not everyone agrees with the threat of overpopulation.So, the billionaire and head of SpaceX Elon Musk claims that a drop in the birth rate can cause the extinction of mankind. According to the World Bank, as reported by The Insider, the global birth rate has been steadily declining since 1960.

The work also mentions the impact of the pandemic on demographic changes: last year, life expectancy fell to 71 years.

“A sharp decline in the birth rate is a much more serious threat to our civilization than anything else,” the businessman believes.

But who is ultimately right?Most climate change researchers agree that overpopulation is one of the drivers of global warming. At the same time, birth rates are indeed declining, which means that the number of older people will increase significantly in the future (as will the spread of deadly diseases that are transmitted from wild animals to humans as a result of their frequent contact).

This is interesting: In the future, the world expects a decline in the birth rate. What does this mean for humanity?

Where did the Black Death come from?

But back to the plague.At the moment, there is no need to worry about its spread in the world. The fact is that the plague is unlikely to completely disappear from the face of the Earth, since its pathogen remains in natural reservoirs. The Black Death, as it is popularly known, claimed the lives of approximately 50 million people in Europe and the Mediterranean between 1346 and 1353. However, much is still unknown about its origin.

As the authors of an article recently published injournal Nature, scientists were able to find biological evidence that the "Black Death" appeared on the territory of modern Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. Moreover, it was in this region that several strains of the plague were discovered, which today circulate around the planet. So, one of the varieties of infection is bubonic plague. The disease got its frightening name because of the characteristic lesions of the lymph nodes throughout the body - the so-called buboes.

Enlarged lymph nodes indicate infection with bubonic plague

You will be interested: In the United States, domestic cats infected a woman with pneumonic plague

Plague is caused by a bacterium Yersinia pestis from the Yersiniaceae family.In addition to bubonic plague, there is septicemic plague, as well as its pneumonic form. The latter, by the way, is the only strain that can be transmitted between people, and the carrier of the infection is infected fleas that are found in rodents. But if humanity has triumphed over smallpox, then why is the plague still with us?

One of the reasons for the collision of people with the "Blackdeath" is the circulation of the bacterium among mammals such as ground squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, ferrets and even domestic animals. So, a study conducted in 2018 showed that the plague spread in Europe not through rats (as is commonly believed), but through fleas and lice that lived on people.

Interesting fact
The plague is believed to have originated in Asia over 2,000 years ago and was spread by merchant ships.

Fleas are the main carriers of the plague. They parasitize rats and are able to pass to humans.

Before the advent of antibiotics, plague took awaymillions of lives, but human infection is unlikely today. In addition, the disease itself is no longer fatal: a wide range of antibiotics successfully treat the infection. While some researchers worry about the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains, the risk is low.

Plague: how it was

In popular imagination, the Black Death is the mostdevastating pandemic in the history of our species. Between 1346 and 1353, the plague is believed to have killed between 30% and 50% of the world's population. The researchers came to this conclusion thanks to documents compiled by state (or church) officials of those years.

In the past, the plague killed the infected withina few days after the onset of the first symptoms. These include high fever, a characteristic rash, and buboes located predominantly in the armpits, neck, and groin. Over time, the buboes turned black and burst, releasing pus and blood, followed by fever, bloody vomiting and death.

The victims of the Black Death died on the second orthe seventh day of infection, and mortality from the disease ranged from 60 to 90 percent. The plague vaccine appeared in 1893, and seven years later more than four million people were vaccinated.

Yersinia pestis under the microscope

Yersinia pestis is transmitted from person to person.through the air, as well as through the bites of infected fleas and rats. These pests could be found almost everywhere in medieval Europe. The researchers note that the social and economic chaos caused by the plague is in many ways comparable to the consequences of the Ebola virus epidemic, during which entire villages died out in just a few weeks.

Read even more articles about deadly viruses and the future of mankind on our channel in Yandex.Zen - articles that are not on the site are regularly published there!

Plague in the 21st century

According to the World OrganizationHealth (WHO), in the world annually recorded from 1000 to 3000 cases of plague infection. Against this background, a single case of bubonic plague in the northwestern Chinese region of Ningxia seems harmless, but the authorities have introduced an increased level of response to the epidemiological threat.

According to the Xinhua news agency, citingPRC state television, the first symptoms of a 45-year-old man appeared on July 12. The next day the patient went to the doctor, and six days later the doctors diagnosed the patient with bubonic plague.

It's better not to approach the gophers today

According to Global Times, after being diagnosedExperts have launched an investigation into a second case of Black Death infection: a 15-year-old teenager is likely to have been infected after contact with a groundhog hunted by a dog.

More on the topic: Threat 2022: what is cholera and how dangerous is it for life

Ultimately, both cases led to the announcementin a country of the fourth level of epidemiological danger, which involves isolation of the infected until they are fully recovered, and also includes a ban on hunting and eating meat of wild animals.

Being a severe infectious disease, plague is easily transmitted between people and has a high mortality rate. According to China's Infectious Disease Prevention and Treatment Law, plague is a to class A infectious diseases.

The history of the appearance of a medical or, most likely, a protective mask began in the Middle Ages.

This means that the infection poses the greatest danger to humans. Fortunately, unlike the inhabitants of the 14th century, we know about the ways of transmission of the disease and its successful treatment with antibiotics.

Don't miss: Trouble doesn't come alone: ​​what is the likelihood of a tweendemia and what does it threaten?

Plague in Russia

In Russia, control over the plague is carried out by Rospotrebnadzor, which on July 20 announced the threat "activation of natural foci of plague" and warned of the possible importation of the disease fromdisadvantaged countries. By order of health officials, new security measures were also announced, including mandatory vaccination among certain categories of citizens, such as hunters.

Since the carriers of the plague are rodents and fleas living on them, you can become infected by direct contact with blood and eating the meat of sick animals. So, in Mongolia so far there are religious ritualsduring which people eat raw gopher meat and drink their blood (brrrr). So if you happen to communicate with a plague-infected person, then vaccinations cannot be avoided.

My colleague Ramis Ganiev spoke about whether social distance was observed during the plague, I recommend that you read

In Russia, episodic outbreaks of bubonic plague also occur.

In conclusion, we note that to expect a plague pandemictoday is not worth it, even despite the difficult epidemiological situation in the world. And to keep yourself and those around you healthy, you need to take precautions, including thorough handwashing, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and, of course, vaccination. Be healthy!