Aug. 26, 2020 -- In 1910, 10,000 hunters rushed into a region in northeast China that sits on the border with Russia. They were searching for an animal called a tarbagan marmot that made its home in underground burrows there and was valued for its pelts.

These hunters are the reason we are all wearing face maskstoday.

To find the rodents, the inexperienced newcomers dug the animals out of their underground burrows. This method, historians believe, brought them into contact with sick animals infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes the plague -- one of the deadliest human pathogens.

Soon the hunters began dying in droves, vomiting blood and turning purple. The illness was quick and almost universally fatal. Its victims typically died within 2 days. It was also spreading quickly. No one knew how to stop it.

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