Not-So-Medieval Plague

A couple in Mongolia died after eating raw marmot kidneys; they were modern-day victims of an old threat: bubonic plague.

Famed for the 1300s pandemic that killed some 50 million people, the plague (most likely passed on from fleas that linger among wildlife) still kills at least one person a year in Mongolia. The US sees up to 17 human cases every year. And Madagascar’s latest outbreak killed more than 200 people before being contained.

Even after plague outbreaks taper off, there’s always a chance it will come back. It can linger for decades among rodents before finding its way to humans, and it can thrive in soil and water.


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