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As the distinguishing feature of the Red Death is "profuse bleeding," there is certainly a suggestion that this pestilence is likened to the disease which killed three women in Edgar Allan Poe's life, tuberculosis. His mother died of pulmonary tuberculosis as did his step-mother, Mrs. Allen; then, his cousin and wife Virginia died of what was then called consumption.
According to the Center for Disease Control, tuberculosis symptoms include pain in the chest, coughing up of blood, and tremendous weakness. In his story, Poe's narrator describes the Red Death as
sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse dizziness, and then profuse bleeding.
In Poe's day this disease was proliferate; according to Britannica Online, tuberculosis was referred to as ‘‘one of the great scourges of mankind," reaching epidemic proportions in urban areas in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and, thus, becoming the leading cause of death for every age group. In fact, records reveal that one third of the world's population is believed to have been infected with tuberculosis--a frightful plague, indeed.
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