Navigable rivers facilitated the spread and recurrence of plague in pre-industrial Europe
Yue, Ricci P. H.
Lee, Harry F.
Wu, Connor Y. H.
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Infectious diseases have become a rising challenge to mankind in a globalizing world. Yet, little is known about the inland transmission of infectious diseases in history. In this study, we based on the spatiotemporal information of 5559 plague (Yersinia pestis) outbreaks in Europe and its neighboring regions in AD1347-1760 to statistically examine the connection between navigable rivers and plague outbreak. Our results showed that 95.5% of plague happened within 10 km proximity of navigable rivers. Besides, the count of plague outbreak was positively correlated with the width of river and negatively correlated with the distance between city and river. This association remained robust in different regression model specifications. An increase of 100 m in the width of river and a shortening of 1 km distance between city and river resulted in 9 and 0.96 more plague outbreaks in our study period, respectively. Such relationship shows a declining trend over our study period due to the expansion of city and technological advancement in overland transportation. This study elucidates the key role of navigable river in the dissemination of plague in historical Europe.