Tuesday, 20 Nov 2018

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Black Death 'spread by humans not rats': New study

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Health Desk: 17 January 2018: The bite of rat-borne fleas infected with the bubonic plague has been blamed for disease transmission during the medieval pandemic. Rats were not to blame for the spread of plague during the Black Death, according to a study.

The rodents and their fleas were thought to have spread a series of outbreaks in 14th-19th Century Europe.

But a team from the universities of Oslo and Ferrara now says the first, the Black Death, can be "largely ascribed to human fleas and body lice".

"We have good mortality data from outbreaks in nine cities in Europe," Prof Nils Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News.

Prof Stenseth said the study was primarily of historical interest - using the modern understanding of disease to unpick what had happened during one of the most devastating pandemics in human history.

But, he pointed out, "understanding as much as possible about what goes on during an epidemic is always good if you are to reduce mortality [in the future]".