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THE BLACK DEATH

JAMA. 1961;175(13):1176. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040130060018.
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Bubonic plague, the Black Death, shares honors with few other scourges of mankind. Documents are inconclusive as to the beginning of the plague in ancient times. Rufus of Ephesus may have described the malady in the Middle East in 100 A. D. when he wrote:

The buboes, called pestilential are most fatal... accompanied by acute fever, pain and prostration of the whole body, delirium and the appearance of large hard buboes....

The Greek physician, Procopius, prepared the first accepted account of the black death—the pandemic of 542 A. D., which began in lower Egypt and spread through the Mediterranean countries and into Asia. The great epidemics of the 14th century brought death to more than 25 million people.1 More than half a million people died of the plague in Venice in a two-year period. The malady is believed to have become epidemic in Constantinople in 1347, to have been

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