by the cramped and squalid conditions in the Old Town, the city's teeming
rat population, spread plague sporadically, and all too frequently, particularly
in the decades leading to the development of the New Town.
The paucity of preventative sanitation or medical remedy to counter the
epidemic, caused outbreaks of serious illness and mortality amongst the
tenants of these unclean streets and closes.
Knowledge that the disease could spread from person to person, could not
provide an effective way of safeguarding against further outbreak. There
were two ways of spreading the Plague virus, Bubonic plague occurs when
an infected flea bites a person or the Y. Pestis enters a break in the
skin and Pneumonic Plague is spread in airbourne particles from person
The Plague was indescriminate, nearly all households rich and poor suffered.
Rats, the carriers of both the bacteria and the fleas which transmit it
to humans, were everywhere.
The numerous victims of such infection, exhibited the following range
of symptons; The first signs of illness - fever, headache, weakness -
were followed by the rapid onset of pneumonia, with shortness of breath,
chest pain, cough. The victim would vomit profusely sometimes watery or
bloody sputum and large pus-filled boils would cover their body.
The pneumonia progressed over several days and finally caused respiratory
failure and shock and an almost inevitable death.
the early treatments of contemporary medicine, few survived the infection
once it became apparent in these ways.
The prevalent belief at the time was that the blighted were doomed, and
should be kept far away from the healthy populace.
The worst example of this was in Mary
King's Close, believed to be the last badly infected location
of the Old Town. In a desperate measure to reduce contamination over
300 plague victims were entombed alive when the close was bricked up until
the plague had passed.