Epidemics and pandemics can rewrite history. The Great Plague of the medieval ages, or “The Black Death,” which killed 75-200 million and wiped away 60% of the European population, is one of history’s most catastrophic examples. The last plague pandemic occurred in the 19th…

A plague outbreak in Madagascar that’s killed 124 people since August has health officials concerned about famadihana, a sacred ritual where families disinter the bodies of their loved ones.   In the famadihana, or “turning of the bones” ritual—practiced every 5, 7 and 9…

The tragic consequences of the play-it-by-ear response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak has world leaders planning ahead.   The World Bank held its 4th pandemic simulation of the year at its annual meeting, reflecting increasing concern over the ever-faster, more aggressive…

Madagascar sees around 600 bubonic plague cases a year, which can usually be controlled with early detection and antibiotics. But this year’s strain, linked to one man’s trip inland—where plague thrives in rodents and fleas—is deadlier.  

The history of plagues is inextricably linked with the rise of urban environments, writes bioarcheologist Brenna Hassett in an excerpt from “Built on Bones: 15,000 Years of Urban Life and Death.”   “The real contribution of the invention of the city to the epidemiological…

Amidst the looming threat of bioterrorism and antimicrobial resistance, Ashok Chopra and his team at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have developed 3 new possible vaccines against the plague. They reported their findings in a study published last fall in…

Four men shoulder a wooden coffin. A father—shoulder deep—shovels earth from a grave where he will place his son’s body. A hospital worker sanitizes the room of a dead boy. Children scamper through trash in a slum of Antananarivo, Madagascar. In stunning black and white…

More than a century after a bungled public health attempt to stop an outbreak of imported plague, the bacterium still infects and kills people in the US. 15 cases have been diagnosed this year in the US, 3 of them fatal, despite that we have antibiotics to treat plague and…

While California investigates a case of plague in a child who fell ill following visits to state parks, the irrepressible Crawford Kilian delivers a historical spin on the news.

Plague—a disease characterized as “one of God’s three arrows”—is the focus of an enlightening article in The Lancet by Andrew Wear, a historian at the University College London. In response to plague in the 15th and 16th centuries, Venice, Florence, Genoa and Milan…