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Study shows Black Death did not kill indiscriminately

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Study shows Black Death did not kill indiscriminately

Post by shammy on Tue Jan 29, 2008 5:22 pm

29th January,2008

The Black Death that decimated populations in Europe and elsewhere during the middle of the 14th century may not have been a blindly indiscriminate killer, as some experts have believed.

An analysis of 490 skeletons from a London cemetery for Black Death victims demonstrated that the infection did not affect everyone equally, two U.S. scientists said on Monday.

While many perfectly healthy people certainly were cut down, those already in poor health prior to the arrival of the plague were more likely to have perished, they found.

"A lot of people have assumed that the Black Death killed indiscriminately, just because it had such massive mortality," anthropologist Sharon DeWitte of the University at Albany in New York, said in a telephone interview.

People already in poor health often are more vulnerable in epidemics. "But there's been a tradition of thinking that the Black Death was this unique case where no one was safe and if you were exposed to the disease that was it. You had three to five days, and then you were dead," DeWitte said.

The plague epidemic of 1347 to 1351 was one of the deadliest recorded in human history, killing about 75 million people, according to some estimates, including more than a third of Europe's population.

DeWitte analyzed skeletons unearthed from the East Smithfield cemetery in London, dug especially for plague victims and excavated in the 1980s, for bone and teeth abnormalities that would show that people had health problems before they died of plague.

She found such abnormalities in many skeletons, suggesting these people had experienced malnutrition, iron deficiencies and infections well before succumbing to the Black Death.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUKN2846871520080129
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