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The Black Death Was Probably Airborne

PIC: "Beak Doctor" costume. (PD)

PIC: “Beak Doctor” costume. (PD)

There goes another historical “fact” into the waste bin. New evidence suggests that the Black Death was probably airborne and, thus, spread by coughs and sneezes instead of disease-harboring rat fleas.

Via Raw Story:

Now evidence taken from the human remains found in Charterhouse Square, to the north of the City of London, during excavations carried out as part of the construction of the Crossrail train line, have suggested a different cause: only an airborne infection could have spread so fast and killed so quickly.

The Black Death arrived in Britain from central Asia in the autumn of 1348 and by late spring the following year it had killed six out of every 10 people in London. Such a rate of destruction would kill five million now. By extracting the DNA of the disease bacterium, Yersinia pestis, from the largest teeth in some of the skulls retrieved from the square, the scientists were able to compare the strain of bubonic plague preserved there with that which was recently responsible for killing 60 people in Madagascar.

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Don’t Panic Yet, But Ebola Could Go Airborne

Picture: Dr. Lyle Conrad/CDC (PD)

Via ScienceNews:

The Ebola virus can spread through the air from pigs to macaques, a new study suggests.

Transmission of the virus — which causes an often fatal hemorrhagic fever in people and primates — was thought to require direct contact with body fluids from an infected animal or person. But in the new study, published online November 15 in Scientific Reports, piglets infected with Ebola passed the virus to macaques housed in the same room even though the animals never touched.

“The evidence that the virus got from a pig to a monkey through a respiratory route is good,” says Glenn Marsh, a molecular virologist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, Australia. Marsh was not involved in the new study but has investigated Ebola and other viruses in pigs.

Although pigs transmitted Ebola in the laboratory, there is still no evidence that anyone has been sickened from contact with infected pigs in Africa, where the virus occurs naturally, or that the virus passes through the air under normal conditions, says study coauthor Gary Kobinger, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.

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