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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/597

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587
THE BUBONIC PLAGUE.

an epidemic of the worst of crimes was associated with that of the plague.

In 1656 Italy was again invaded by the plague, and on that occasion Genoa lost 65,000 of its population by death. About the same time terrible epidemics of the disease ravaged Russia, Turkey and Hungary.

London, in 1665, suffered dreadfully from the plague. The disease appears to have been imported from Holland, where it was known to have existed for some time. The progress of the disease in London has been vividly portrayed by Defoe in the 'Journal of the Plague Year' and in the 'Due Preparations for the Plague.'

It is supposed that the pest had been imported in bales of goods from Smyrna into Holland in 1663. From thence it crossed over to London, where the first deaths were reported about the first of December in 1664. Toward the end of that month another death occurred in the same house, but during the following six weeks no new case developed. About the middle of February, however, a person died of the plague in another house. From that time only occasional cases of plague were reported, although the weekly mortality was rapidly rising and was greatly in excess of the usual rate. Thus, while the ordinary weekly mortality ranged from two hundred and forty to three hundred, this was gradually increased, so that in the third week in January it had risen to four hundred and seventy-four. After a slight remission, the mortality again rose, so that early in May plague cases were reported more frequently. It soon became evident that the plague, as in Milan in 1630, had slowly but surely gained a firm foothold. The increased mortality was undoubtedly due to unsuspected plague cases of either the pneumonic or the septicemic type.

During May, and especially during the hot weather in June, the disease continued to spread. At the same time, the panic-stricken people began to leave the city in large numbers. In July the condition was truly deplorable. To quote Defoe:

"London might well be said to be all in tears; the mourners did not go about the streets, indeed, for nobody put on black or made a formal dress of mourning for their nearest friends; but the voice of mourning was truly heard in the streets. The shrieks of women and children at the windows and doors of their houses, where their dearest relations were perhaps dying, or just dead, were so frequent to be heard as we passed in the streets, that it was enough to pierce the stoutest heart in the world to hear them. Tears and lamentations were seen almost in every house, especially in the first part of the visitation; for toward the latter end men's hearts were hardened, and death was so always before their eyes, that they did not so much concern themselves for the loss of their friends, expecting that themselves should be summoned the next hour."