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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/599

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THE BUBONIC PLAGUE.

less, a change had taken place for the better, and as the years went on the retrogression of the plague became more and more distinct.

During the first two decades of the eighteenth century the plague was widely distributed in Eastern Europe. It was present especially in Constantinople and in the Danubian provinces. From the latter it extended to Russia (Ukraine), and from thence to Poland. The disastrous invasion of Russia by Charles XII. of Sweden, ending in his defeat at Poltawa in 1709, led to its further dissemination to Silesia, Eastern Prussia, the Baltic provinces and seaports, and even to Scandinavia. It was during this epidemic that Dantzic, in 1709, lost 33,000, and Stockholm 40,000 by the plague. During the years 1709 and 1710 the plague mortality in the Baltic provinces exceeded 300,000. Three years later, in 1713, the plague spread up the Danube and reached Vienna, Prague and even Bavaria.

During these two decades Western Europe was entirely free from the dread disease. In 1720 the disease suddenly developed in Marseilles and extended from thence to neighboring towns and the country districts of Provence. Terrible as was this visitation it is of interest, inasmuch as it was the last occurrence of the plague on French soil, and the last in Western Europe until the recent outbreak in Portugal.

The plague was said to have been imported into Marseilles by a merchant vessel, the 'Grand Saint Antoine', from Syria. On its way to Marseilles several deaths occurred on shipboard, but the cause was overlooked. On the 25th of May, 1720, two days after the arrival of the vessel, another death occurred among the crew. The disease was still not believed to be the plague, and although quarantine was instituted, new cases appeared among the crew and the dock laborers employed in unloading the vessel, and it was not until the disease reached the city that its true nature was recognized. The germs of the disease had then been scattered broadcast. Unsanitary a city as Marseilles is to-day, it must have been vastly more so in 1720. The result of the addition of plague germs to the want, misery and filthy condition was at once evident. During August the mortality averaged four and even five hundred per day. In September the daily mortality rose to 1,000. So great was the terror of the populace that it became impossible to secure bearers of the dead, to obtain nurses and attendants. The dead were left in heaps upon the streets, so that it became necessary to transfer to the city 700 galley slaves, who were required to remove the bodies. These same galley slaves were even pressed into service as nurses. The diseased were abandoned by friends and relatives, and under such conditions it need not be wondered at that they received little or no attention from others. Food and water were denied to the unfortunates, and when food was administered to the pesthouses it was thrown into the windows by machinery.