So what is wrong with listening to the drumbeat, to the endless calls to protect ourselves against the coming plague – against Ebola from Africa and bird flu from Asia? Is it possible that a huge pandemic could erupt from some as-yet unknown pathogen? Is apocalypse lurking out there, among rats or monkeys, or bats or flying squirrels or birds? The Black Death shows that you can never say never: there might be an animal pathogen out there that, under the right circumstances, can evolve and maintain both virulence and transmissibility among humans as well as animals.
Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland, pediatrician Eugeniusz Łazowski and his friend Stanisław Matulewicz fabricated a fake typhus epidemic to save Polish Jews from the Nazis. Knowing that typhus-infected Jews would be summarily executed, non-Jews were injected with the harmless Proteus OX19, which would generate false positives for typhus. [more inside]