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The Black Death Never Left – And It Might Defeat Our Best Defenses

Artist: Deittrich von Lichtensteig, c. 1411 (Feedloader (Clickability))

Through evolution or our own inattention, once ferocious killers of humankind are clawing their way back. The one disease I was not expecting to see on the list of humanity’s resurgent foes was the Black Death, a.k.a. the bubonic plague, the “scourge of the Dark Ages.” And yet here it is.

“Health officials have confirmed that an Oregon man has the plague after he was bitten while trying to take a dead rodent from the mouth of a stray cat.” said the Associated Press.

“Known centuries ago as the “Black Death” for its blackening effect on infected skin, plague is a largely flea-borne bacterial disease, often spread to humans via flea-infested rodents.” said the Star.

To my surprise, “the “Black Death” is far from dead,” says the Star. “The World Health Organization reports about 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague every year.”

Indeed, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention tracks the disease in the US. “Between 1900 and 2010, 999 confirmed or probable human plague cases occurred in the United States,” says the CDC’s website.

Photo: US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The plague can usually be treated if it’s caught early enough. Some scientists, however, are worried about a resurgence if the plague-causing bacterium develops a resistance to antibiotics, something that seems to already be happening.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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