It’s time to examine some more likely apocalypses! (Yay!) This time, let’s look at the possibility of a deadly plague.
One of the most famous plagues in history is the Plague. That is, the Black Death (or the Black Plague). It killed over one-third of Europe’s population in the mid-1300s. As the Black Death made its way across Europe, towns and villages were full of mass graves, quarantines, plague masks, and dead people. It was not a pleasant time.
I imagine that at the end of it all, people were relieved to, you know, not be dying anymore. It was gone, and life could go back to normal, without the threat of another epidemic.
Except…it’s not gone.
No, really. It isn’t. It’s still around in some parts of the world, lurking, waiting for some unsuspecting rat or flea to pick it up and carry it around. (It was recently found in Arizona.) (Have you stocked up on plague masks yet?)
The intervening centuries have been relatively kind to our plague friend, and it’s just as deadly as it was in the fourteenth century. Sure, there are treatments available nowadays, but it can still kill you.
The “black plague” is actually a bacterial infection that goes by the lovely name of Yersinia pestis (sounds friendly, doesn’t it?). There are three forms: bubonic (found in the lymph nodes); septicemic (found in the bloodstream); and pneumonic (an advanced stage when the bacteria is passed directly from person to person). It is, quite frankly, terrifying and terrible (sort of like Ebola, but from rats and fleas). It’s super virulent, and if it isn’t caught and treated in time, it will probably kill you in a horribly gruesome way. (God help you if you reach the pneumonic stage, because you’ll probably die.)
Can the plague cause an apocalypse?
YOU BETCHA. If not the plague, then a plague. It might be Ebola. Or Marburg. Or SARS. Or some flu variant that hasn’t been discovered yet. But a deadly epidemic (of whatever) has always been a possible apocalypse – there are a lot more bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics these days, and there are some crazy deadly viruses floating around out there.
We have learned, through some awesome epidemics like the Black Death, the Spanish Flu, and even more recent epidemics like H1N1 and SARS, that bacteria and viruses are very effective at killing people. If there’s something out there that’s untreatable, deadly, and spreads quickly, well…bye y’all. It’s been nice knowing you.
I mean, apocalypse by illness is so possible that “biological warfare” is an actual thing.
How can you survive a plague apocalypse?
Get thee to an isolated compound, preferably underground, with no contact with the outside world. But make sure the people in the compound aren’t already infected, or you’re screwed anyway.
Honestly, if a fun new disease is going to kill the human race, there isn’t going to be much that we can do. If our immune systems can’t handle it, then no amount of herbs are going to save us, and no vaccines will, either (especially if it moves too quickly or mutates too fast).