Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I hope our Borrowed Book readers don't mind, but tonight I'm going to recycle an article I wrote in 2012. It seems apropos because of an article I recently read about a man dying in Yemen from bubonic plague. Even more interesting is the archaic way Yemen officials are handling the death--they're sealing off parts of the city. But sealing people away isn't going to keep diseased animals from spreading the disease via fleas. It reminds me of the book I mentioned at the end of this article, and the panicked way U.S. officials reacted to the first U.S. outbreak in San Fransisco.

Here is the article:

In this day and age of pest control companies, pesticides for sale, and well built houses, it’s hard to imagine the pests that our forefathers had to put up with. Our prairie foremothers had bugs, snakes and mice falling from the ceiling of their soddies. Nowadays we aren’t so used to seeing things like that. In fact, many of us panic at the sight of creepy crawlies, whether they be of the buggy type like centipedes, the no legged type like snakes, or the four-legged type. . .like rats.

Recently I acquired two Woman’s World magazines, one from September, 1922 and one from July, 1926. Both had an ad for products to get rid of rats. 

That struck me weird because I’ve never seen ads like that in present day women’s magazines. That’s probably because we’ve become relatively successful at keeping the pest population at bay in the United States. Notice I said, “at bay,” not controlled or eliminated. I think the recent upsurge in bedbugs is a good example that we aren’t really in control (a topic I’d like to address in a future blog).

But back to the rats. . .they’ve played a significant role in the history of man, for instance, in spreading the Black Death through another pest--fleas. 

I just finished a book about the first epidemic of bubonic plague (spread by fleas via host rats) here in the continental United State. It makes for fascinating reading and tells not just the history of the plague, but how it impacted the path of medicine.

Now that I think about it, given the history of plague and rats (not to mention ticks and Lyme disease, brown recluse spiders and necrosis, or snake bites and death), perhaps screaming at the sight of a pest and running away isn’t such a bad idea.


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