Title page of episode 2 and opposite: Capuchin friars taking care of the plague victims in Maastricht. Painting from the fourteenth century . Day chapel Sint Servaaskerk Maastricht. | Photo Appie Derks. Right: Protective clothing of the pest doctors. | Wellcome Library 51 Chronologically, the plague came after leprosy. The large plague epidemic, ominously designated the Black Death, struck Europe in 1347, at a time when leprosy was in decline. The plague afflicted many more people and was more fatal than leprosy. The plague was caused by the Yersinia Pestis bacterium. It was transmitted to humans by rat fleas. The most common form of the disease caused high fever within a week of infection followed by painfully swollen lymph nodes and bleeding. Of every four patients, three did not survive the bubonic plague. There was also an even more severe form with pneumonia, which was always fatal. Typically, the plague appeared in recurring epidemics that swept through European towns every ten to twenty years with peaks in the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. From 1471, Maastricht had an epidemic every six to twelve years. The epidemics of Maastricht followed the pattern of all plague epidemics in Western Europe. The last one, in 1669, was in the aftermath of a large European epidemic that caused the deaths of one fifth of the population of London in 1665.
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