Medicine: Rustic Menace

Ever since bubonic plague, the fearsome "Black Death" of the Middle Ages, reached the West Coast from China in 1900, U.S. health officials have waged ceaseless war against it. In the century's first quarter, the U.S. had 483 cases, 60% of them fatal. Then U.S. preventive measures (primarily rodent control) took effect: between 1925 and 1947 there were only 22 cases. Last week, for the first time in two years, two U.S. cases were identified, both in New Mexico.

Man shares the disease with rodents, and the germ is carried to man by rat fleas. The West, in its great open spaces,...

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