Mental Floss

The Plague: One of Five Infamous Epidemics We Hope We Never See

Chris Weber
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"¢ During the late 13th century, armies in present-day Ukraine heaved corpses infected with plague into enemy camps — an early instance of biologic warfare.

"¢ As terrible as epidemics are, they sometimes have a bright side. Historian Barbara Tuchman says that plague shook up the rigid social order of the Middle Ages, and paved the way for individual rights.

"¢ You'd think folks would be happy to see plague disappear, but someone had the great idea to turn it into a weapon. Soviet scientists produced tons of plague spores during the Cold War. These were never used, but many of the scientists involved may now be working in secret Russian labs (cue evil laughter).

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(CDC Plague Map)

"¢ Today, about a dozen cases of plague occur in the U.S. every year, mainly in desert Southwest, where the bacillus hangs out in rats and other rodents. That's why some residents like to call their region (cue brass band) "the land of the fleas and the home of the plague."

Didn't catch Syphilis yet? Read about yesterday's Infamous Epidemic.

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