A Look Inside The Brutal But Necessary Work Of A Medieval Plague Doctor

Tasked with treating victims of the Black Death, plague doctors wore all-leather suits and beak-like masks to avoid catching the fatal disease.

The Black Death was the deadliest epidemic of bubonic plague in history, wiping out some 25 million Europeans alone in just a few years. Out of desperation, cities hired a new breed of physician — so-called plague doctors — who were either second-rate physicians, young physicians with limited experience, or who had no certified medical training at all.

The primary responsibilities of a plague doctor, or Medico della Peste, were not to cure or treat patients. Their duties were more administrative and laborious as they kept track of casualties of the Black Death, assisted in the occasional autopsy, or witnessed wills for the dead and dying.

Today we know that the bubonic and subsequent plagues like pneumonia were caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis which was carried by rats and common in urban settings. The last urban outbreak of plague in the United States occurred in Los Angeles in 1924 and we since have found a cure in common antibiotics.

This early hazmat suit and those horrific treatments remain thankfully in the past, but the willingness of plague doctors to separate the sick from the healthy, to burn the contaminated, and experiment with treatments, has not been lost on history.

REF: Allthatsinteresting.com

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