The other night I read an article about the Plague of Athens that took place in 430 BC, two years into the Peloponnesian War. The plague, as described by the historian, Thucydides, reminds me of smallpox or Ebola. But it has never been determined just what it was the killed off a third of Athenian Greeks back in the day. Sparta fared better, though what their death rate was, is unknown.
The Spartans were not holed up in a city like the Athenians were. They were out besieging the city. Camping, you see.
Aye, there’s the rub. In an epidemic, it’s good to stay out of cities and stay out of doors. If anything, our present pandemic, truly mild in comparison of just about any other historical disease, has told us the same thing. When disease comes to town, leave.
Yuval Noah Harari, the professor who wrote the book, Sapiens, makes the same point. When we were hunter-gatherers, we didn’t get so sick. There were no epidemics, certainly no pandemics, of virus or bacterium because being nomadic, we humans didn’t stick around long enough in any one place to pick stuff up. Or pass it along to others who lived far, far away. Oh sure, people got sick. But when we stay out doors a lot and move around, not too much sticks with us.
Civilization is a killer. So too is war. That’s because the two seem to go together. That aside, body for body, Mother Nature out performs any bomb or bullet you can throw at us. Even the nukes we dropped on Japan couldn’t do the job that a plague can do. Besides, we can see a bomb coming, and at least try to outrun it. But a meteor? Maybe we see it, maybe we don’t, but a good sized chunk of rock hitting this Earth will kill billions.
Mother Nature knows how to control population size. Humanity? Not so much.
Imagine the Bubonic hitting us now in our overcrowded cities. Even with our modern antibiotics, our hospitals would be way more overcrowded than they were with Covid. Covid had some weird side effects, plus it seems to have a series of after effects as well. But plague?
Yersinia pestis, aka, the plague, presents in three different ways: bubonic (the “black” death); pneumonic, (respiratory); and septicemic. How does one get the pestis? Via a flea’s bite. Rodents carry the bacterium. That means those cute squirrels as well as rats, can be deadly. The fleas bite into your cat or dog or you, and off you go into a sea of misery as your lymph nodes swell and push this deadly bacteria through your system. Pray real hard it doesn’t go respiratory on you, because that’s the death knell. For you and others who care for you.
The death rate is about 30-60% for bubonic and septicemic, and 100% for pneumonic.
Nice, huh. See, the past is way nastier. And, it is why we keep our city streets clean.
The point being, the action to take when any pandemic hits is to leave town. Or move out to the yard, and stay there. And for heaven’s sake, don’t fight a war outside your city gates when the people inside are dying. No, find yourself a nice little villa, like the individuals in Bocaccio’s Decameron did, and tell stories for 10 days. Make that 100 days. Of course, you will have to work remotely, and the kids will, sort of, learn remotely. Also, adopt a small business to make sure it can stay in business after the thing finishes making corpses. Think creatively, and fearlessly. As my friend Vern, of blessed memory, used to say: This too shall pass. Your job is live through it.