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Forget everything you ever learned in Medieval history in high school. Apparently the bubonic plague, or Black Death, that killed every 6 out of 10 European people in the 14th century was not actually caused by fleas from a rat infestation spurred on by Pope Gregory IX deciding that cats were minions of the devil. How anyone could hate cats seems impossible, but that's another story.
After studying the remains of victims, scientists have determined the Black Plauge was likely an airborne infection. The spread of the disease was too rapid to have been transported by blood sucking bugs. Victims of the plague were often malnourished and already had failing health and were susceptible to falling ill. Pair that with a disgusting lack of basic personal hygiene and you have a breeding ground for a massive epidemic.
Scientists extracted centuries old DNA from the bones of plague victims and compared it to a strain of the disease which killed 60 people in Madagascar last year. The DNA was nearly identical, disproving the flea bite story we were all taught. Today the plague can be treated with antibiotics and is (relatively) easy to fight off for those in good health.
The plague was a disease that struck the wrong place at the wrong time. In modern times, we've dealt with the fear of epidemic illnesses, too. Bird flu became a buzzword and fear in 2006, and news outlets talked about it like the world was ending. In 2009, swine flu was driving everyone indoors and away from social contact. Schools and work allowed basically unlimited sick days and hand sanitizer dispensers were around almost every corner.Our fear of germs hasn't faded even as modern medicine has caught up to many illnesses.
Now that your mind is blown, maybe it's time we start rethinking everything we've learned about the past. Scientific advancements are constantly knocking old theories out and expanding our knowledge at an alarming rate. Now we only need to worry about if we can keep an impending zombie apocalypse at bay.