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Plague Doctors

Discussion in 'Research' started by valiant12, Jan 18, 2018.

  1. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

    How effective were plague doctors masks/outfits?Did they offer some protection against airborne disease ? How can the design be improved?
    What is the proper name of the weird beak like mask?

  2. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Hello Valiant!

    According to the sources that I have consulted about this, the mask of Plague Doctors contained a variety of aromatic herbs and spices. The powerful and pleasant smells inside of the mask were believed to counter the bad air which was contaminated with disease, and they were not quite wrong about that.

    Airborne Plague is spread by means of tiny droplets of liquid, and I believe that the herbs and other ingredients inside of the mask would filter many of those droplets. The beak masks certainly offered some protection, at least much better than no mask at all! However, it was a sure thing that these doctors could catch Pneumonic Plague and die of it anyway.

    I would improve the design with a larger beak and better filters, perhaps fine cloth combined with charcoal powder.

    As for a proper name for the mask, as far as I have read they were simply called Plague Doctor Mask.

    The outfit would be useful against fleas infected with the Plague, and the wooden canes used by these doctors were intended for the removal of clothing from those sick without the need to touch them directly.

    The canes could also be used to take the pulse, but I am not sure how that would work.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2018
    valiant12 and CupofJoe like this.
  3. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    The short answer is no, they didn't do squat against plague. Understand that in the 14th century they weren't sure what they were dealing with. Some thought the plague was from noxious fumes from within the earth, so they developed the 14th century equivalent of air purifying respirators. There was an airborne form of the plague, pneumonic plague, and these masks were an attempt to counter the contagion, but they didn't work. They knew something they couldn't see was invading people's bodies and causing the illness, they just didn't know about bacteria - they didn't understand how small the contagion was and how it could slip through all of their countermeasures. Some cities, like Milan, had a brutally simple method for dealing with plague - when someone showed symptoms, they bricked that person and his entire family up in their house and let them die.

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