This year, Swine Flu, H1N1, The Swine, whatever one chooses to call it, has captured the minds, hearts, and immune systems of the American public. Not too long ago, in 1348, the Black Death, or the Bubonic Plague, swept Europe. While yes, the death toll may be significantly different: the Plague taking out between 30 to 60 percent of the European population, and Swine Flu killing 4,216 people worldwide according to the European Center for Disease Control, but there are some striking similarities.
First of all, both the Plague and the Swine have their origin in animals. It is believed that the Plague was brought over to Europe from Asia, and spread by fleas with the help of black rats. The Swine is, obviously, linked to hogs and hog farms.
Sure, Swine Flu can be contracted through playing beer pong, but only if you suck at it.
Let’s talk about how these two viruses manifest themselves. The Plague was characterized by unsightly buboes, or swelling of the lymph nodes, on the ill person’s body. Swine Flu is characterized by unsightly surgical masks currently being worn by the afflicted. This is probably very smart evolutionarily for the propagation of the species. Both these diseases manifest in ways visible to the human eye, so we all know that we should not mate with these people. If you’re intimate with someone with the Swine Flu, you’ve got ten days of Tamiflu ahead of you.
The Plague was so widespread that entire towns were quarantined, and because of Swine Flu, designated “sick dorms” have been established on college campuses across America. A difference here might be that that since the plague was so widespread, those afflicted by it were probably just accepted. If someone has Swine Flu, on the other hand, they are treated as a social pariah – classroom attendance policy is relaxed for them, and their friends take the restraining order approach of standing no closer than fifty feet to them.
Here at Vanderbilt, the administration cautions us against Spring Break in Mexico and playing beer pong. On the other hand, the monarchs across Europe prohibited exports of food, condemned black market speculators, set price controls on grain, and outlawed large-scale fishing. I don’t know if anyone living during the 1348 Plague knew that fleas from rats were the cause of the Plague, because all of these responses seem to have nothing to do with preventing further infection. At least Vanderbilt has a point with their responses. Sure, Swine Flu can be contracted through playing beer pong, but only if you suck at it.
Pour, don’t sip from the bottle. Don’t lose at beer pong. Give those with masks a wide berth. Because honestly, we are operating at 101 percent capacity here in these dorms, and we wouldn’t have any place to quarantine all of you.
Additionally, the Plague was a large topic for writers of the time, lamenting the devastating state of life and waxing poetic about what they called, “The Great Mortality” or the “Great Pestilence.” Today, we are able to utilize Google in order to find what people have written about Swine Flu, and when one does, he would stumble upon these gems, “Swine Flu or Terrorist Threat?” and “Swine Flu + Republicans = Obama Plague.”
Finally, some historians speculate that the Plague created an economic crisis around the world that had been impending since the beginning of the Century. Has anyone in America looked into the possibility that Swine Flu lead to our recession? I think not.
So fine, Swine isn’t quite the Plague. But in conclusion, try not to contract the Swine, friends. Pour, don’t sip from the bottle. Don’t lose at beer pong. Give those with masks a wide berth. Because honestly, we are operating at 101 percent capacity here in these dorms, and we wouldn’t have any place to quarantine all of you. Good luck and stay healthy.
Roark Luskin is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.