History of Europe

PPE from the black plague

Just as this damn pandemic has left us with recurring images, such as that of uniformed professionals with PPE - an acronym for Personal Protective Equipment -, the years of the black death also had their own, such as the so-called "plague doctors" . Hired and paid by the cities to treat local patients, rich or poor, these doctors prescribed what they considered to be protective concoctions and antidotes to the plague, recorded wills, and performed autopsies, most of them with a particular attire:a tunic of thick waxed fabric, a wooden cane to help with the examination of patients without having to touch them, a mask with a long bird's beak in which they put different aromatic herbs and straw, and black glasses. And although he looked like he had escaped from a B movie, everything had a reason. For the medical profession, the plague was produced by the corruption of the air caused by the emanation of decomposing organic matter (miasmas), which was transmitted to the human body through the air, the breath of a sick person or by contact with the skin. .

Considering this origin, it seemed logical to cover oneself so as not to be infected, keep a distance from the patient's breath, hence the long beak, and filter the "bad air" with the straw and breathe something pleasant in the midst of that foul smell, the smell of death that ran through the streets...

The doctors did not dare to visit their patients, for fear of being infected and if they did, their help was poor and nothing was gained. The corpses were exposed at the doors of the houses and sometimes they were thrown out of the windows because there was no one to bury them, since the gravediggers were the first to fall. And no one could be found who would bury the dead for friendship or money. The sick died without anyone by their side and the dead remained unburied for several days. The father abandoned the son, the wife the husband and the brother the brother, because this disease seemed to attack by breath and sight. And so they died. Charity was dead and hope lost.

And on the subject of covering their eyes, they did well to wear glasses because it was said that…

However, the moment of greatest virulence of this epidemic, which leads to almost instant death, is when the aerial spirit that comes out of the eyes of the patient hits the eye of the healthy man who looks at him closely, especially when he is dying.; then the poisonous nature of that member passes from one to another and kills the healthy individual