Black Death Pandemic: Expert warns of ETERNAL plague outbreaks
Professor Kyle Harper, of the University of Oklahoma, said this “third plague pandemic” is proof the disease cannot be destroyed permanently.
Nearly 200 people have been killed in the devastating outbreak and there are mounting fears it will go global – potentially wiping out scores of people.
It’s been described as the “worst outbreak in 50 years”, with medical professionals desperately working to contain it.
Professor Harper, who is the author of the book “The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire”, said the current outbreak is a threat to people “everywhere”.
Writing in Project Syndicate, Professor Harper traces the history of the two major plague outbreaks, showing how they mutated and spread around the globe.
He argues this shows how powerless we are to halt the spread of the plague forever, stating: “There still is no vaccine; while antibiotics are effective if administered early, the threat of antimicrobial resistance is real.
“That may be the deepest lesson from the long history of this scourge. Biological evolution is cunning and dangerous. Small mutations can alter a pathogen’s virulence or its efficiency of transmission, and evolution is relentless."
He adds: "The plague in Madagascar today is an offshoot of what is known as the 'third plague pandemic', a global dispersion of 'Yersinia pestis' that radiated from China in the late nineteenth century.
"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.”
The current outbreak is of the airborne pneumonic plague, which can be spread by coughing, sneezing, spitting and other contact with bodily fluids.
The World Health Organisation has said this epidemic is “different” to that seen before.
Nine countries are now on high alert amid fears the disease could go global.
Pneumonic plague – a relative of the Black Death – can kill in as little as 24 hours.
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