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Plague is a rare bacterial infection of animals and humans with most US cases occurring in western states. Widespread epidemics of plague have had an enormous impact on human history: the first recorded plague epidemic began in Egypt in 541 AD and spread throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia killing approximately 50% of the population; the “Black Death” or “Great Pestilence” that began in 1346 was responsible for approximately 50 million deaths in Africa, Asia, and Europe; and the 1855 epidemic that began in China ultimately killed over 12 million people in India and China. Bacteria that cause plague are found naturally in rodents and their fleas. Plague is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected flea and can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

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