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For most people, "the plague" conjures up images of the medieval Black Death, and perhaps a vaguely reassuring sense that, in the developed world, such ancient dangers are long past. But in recent years, thanks to the work of geneticists, archaeologists, and historians, we now know that human civilization and the plague have a much deeper and more intimate association than previously assumed. The plague bacterium, in its most destructive form, is about 3,000 years old.The precise mechanisms by which climate events fueled plague remain contested, but the link is unmistakable, and the lesson is worth underscoring: the complex relationship between climate and ecosystems impacts human health in unexpected ways.We may have the upper hand over plague today, despite the headlines in East Africa. But our long history with the disease demonstrates that our control over it is tenuous, and likely to be transient – and that threats to public health anywhere are threats to public health everywhere.
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