The oldest known evidence of the plague was identified in DNA collected from a woman buried in Sweden some 5,000 years ago. The earliest recorded visitation of the plague to Europe may have occurred in Athens in 430 BC, but it is unclear if the disease that afflicated Athens was caused by Y. pestis. A epidemic occurred in the Mediterranean during the time of the Roman emperor Justinian, but more recent research has challenged the long-standing belief that 25% to 50% of the population succumbed. The most widespread epidemic began in Constantinople in 1334, spread throughout Europe (returning Crusaders were a factor), and in less than 20 years is estimated to have killed three quarters of the population of Europe and Asia. The great plague of London in 1665 is recorded in many works of literature. Quarantine measures helped contain the disease, but serious epidemics continued to occur even in the 19th cent. The disease is still prevalent in parts of Asia, and sporadically occurs elsewhere (approximately 2,500 cases worldwide annually). In Surat, India, in 1994, 5,000 cases of pneumonic plague were reported in an outbreak; an estimated 100 people died, and more than 400,000 people fled the city. Because the number of cases of plague has been increasing annually, it is categorized as a re-emerging infectious disease by the World Health Organization.

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