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Seems in 536AD, a rather large volcano erupted in what is now Guatemala, destroying the Mayan civilisation and sending a plume of dust and debris that shrouded the northern hemisphere, to such an extent, that it caused change in climate (note: not man made!).  According to scientists, this caused the release of the virus that causes bubonic plague; which was duly carried by rats on trading boats to Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. At that time, the British (as in Britons, or later Welsh), who still retained trading links with the Eastern Roman Empire, seem to have caught the bug too, which seriously affected their ability to withstand the invasions by Angles, Saxons and Jutes. So arguably, we owe the fact that we're largely English to a volcano in Guatemala !

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The plague carried by rats was a bacterial infection, Y.Pestis, rather than a virus. However there is some dispute about whether this was in fact the cause of the Black Death, other theories being that it was a virus similar to Ebola or even anthrax from infected meat. If it was a virus it wouldn't have needed rats to spread as it would have been spread by huma/human contact.

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It was actually carried by fleas, that the rats hosted.  The plague (bubonic), transposed into pneumonic, affecting the lungs and making human to human spread easier (airborne). This was earlier than "the Black Death" of the middle ages Asp; and was one of the many plagues in history, that kept population levels down and arguably changed the course of history itself.

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