February Word of the Month — Plague

This flu season has been one of the worst in memory with a higher death rate than we have come to expect in modern medical times. Everyone, pretty much, has had the flu or a cold that won’t go away. Some people got their flu shots and still got sick. I think we are the lucky ones because having the flu shot probably made the case of flu we suffered much less dangerous than if we hadn’t been inoculated.

The key phrase I hear from my humorous friends is that we have the plague. So I looked it up, and sure enough! We pretty much do.

020418 medicine-thermometer-tablets-pills


1. an epidemic disease that causes high mortality; pestilence.

2. an infectious, epidemic disease caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, characterized by fever, chills, and prostration, transmitted to humans from rats by means of the bites of fleas.

Compare bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, septicemic plague.

3. any widespread affliction, calamity, or evil, especially one regarded as a direct punishment by God:

a plague of war and desolation.

1350-1400; Middle English plage < Latin plāga stripe, wound, Late Latin: pestilence

020418 1918 flu

I’ve read a few Regency romances where a servant has gotten sick and is treated relatively nicely by the people he or she works for. By nice, I mean allowed to retire early and maybe given soup and tea once a day. If the Quality folks get sick, they stay in bed and they often receive a visit from the doctor or apothecary. They certainly get beef tea as well as regular tea.

020418 plague doctor

The ancient Greeks figured out a lot of interesting things about the body, but still, the “’Hippocratic method’ of treatment of the sick was to keep the patient in bed and let nature take its course.” The result was a “Plague in Athens (smallpox or typhus?) in 430 that lasts three years. A third of the population of Athens dies and is one of the reasons for Athens’ decline.”

020418 hippocrated

There are scientific reasons why this year’s flu is so very deadly and the bad news is, we haven’t hit the peak of the flu season. It’s not too late to go get your shot, because more flu strains are bound to show up, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of deaths for which the flu is responsible is not easy to state, as many people have the flu and die without ever seeing a doctor. But the ones we do know about is a chilling number.

020418 graveyard

You may have heard about the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 or may have lost family members to that horrific event. There’s a possibility it started in the US, in Kansas, where farmers were raising hogs and where migratory birds passed over, stopping at the waterways on their journies north or south. And at that time, flu was not yet a reportable disease. More people died in that wave than all military deaths in both World Wars.

020418 warming

Global warming is soon to play a part in the spread of more diseases if it hasn’t already done that. As the permafrost melts, more things that were safely frozen are exposed to the air and the sea. Bacteria can remain alive for maybe a million years in the ice. Mining and drilling in the arctic circles can also release pathogens that spell trouble for humans.

Will some of this make a great futuristic Romance plot? No doubt, kind of a romanticized Andromeda Strain. Find the two people who are immune to the disease and put them into isolation. Not only the plot will thicken.

020418 future doctor

Thanks for reading. Stay healthy and keep your areas clean. I’ll be back on Thursday.

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