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Posted August 15, 2004
Fascinating new information
The Return of the Black Death convincingly presents the argument that the Black Death, which may have killed half the population of Europe, was not the familiar and now-treatable bubonic plague, but an unknown, and far deadlier virus. The authors base their case on detailed studies of medieval death registers and wills, from which they were able to determine the length of the disease's incubation, the time during which it could be transmitted from person to person, and the time to death. These time spans do not match those of bubonic plague at all, but instead are the signature of a virus with a long incubation period, a long period of symptom-free transmissibility, and then, for most, a quick and horrible death. The implications, should this virus or a similar pathogen, emerge, are catastrophic. Unfortunately, the importance of this information is not matched by its presentation, which is slow and labored. Still, it's an important book, and worth reading. Robert Adler, Ph.D., author of Medical Firsts: From Hippocrates to the Human Genome; and Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation
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