Messina, October 1347
In early October 1347, twelve Genoese galleys put in at the port of Messina in Sicily. The town was one of the principal stopping-off points on the lucrative trade route from the East that brought silks and spices along the Old Silk Road, through the Crimea, across the Black Sea and into Europe. On this occasion, however, no silks nor spices were to be unloaded from the vessels, which had probably come from the trading stations Genoa maintained at Tana and Kaffa on the north coast of the Black Sea. The port authorities found, to their horror, that scarcely anyone onboard the twelve galleys was left alive, and those who were exhibited a pronounced lethargy and a strange sickness 'that seemed to cling to their very bones'. They suffered from black boils and everything that came out of their bodies – breath, blood, pus – smelled awful. The presence of the galleys was deemed a public health emergency of the first order and, within a day or so, the galleys were driven from the port, so afraid were the Messinese of what they found on board the Genoese vessels

450 million – approximate world population prior to the Black Death.
350– million – the estimated global population after the pandemic.
100-200 million – the number of people across Europe and Asia believed to have perished in the pandemic.
4 years – the length of time the Black Death peaked in Europe.
40-50% – the estimated death toll in Europe.
70-80% – the estimated death toll in southern Europe
(Spain, France and Italy), where plague lasted four years
20% – the estimated death toll in England & Scandinavia.

Yersinia pestis (formerly Pasteurella pestis)
Gram-negative, rod-shaped coccobacillus, a bacterium that can infect humans and animals. It causes the deadly disease named plague. Human Y. pestis infection takes three main forms: pneumonic, septicemic, and bubonic plagues. All three forms were responsible for a number of high-mortality epidemics throughout human history, including: the sixth century's Plague of Justinian; the Black Death, which accounted for the death of at least one-third of the European population between 1347 and 1353; and the 19th century's Third Pandemic.These plagues probably originated in rodent populations in China.Y. pestis was discovered in 1894 byAlexandre Yersin, a Swiss/French physician and bacteriologist from the Pasteur Institute, during an epidemic of plague in Hong Kong. Yersin was a member of the Pasteur school of thought. Yersin actually linked plague with Y. pestis. Originally named Pasteurella pestis, the organism was renamed in 1967.

Every year, thousands of cases of plague are still reported to the World Health Organization