New York Subway

Bubonic Plague in the NY Subway System? Meh

Weill Cornell Infographic: Microbes on the SubwayHere’s a headline you don’t see every day: “Bubonic Plague in the NY Subway System — Don’t Worry About It.”

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College published a study in Cell Systems this week that essentially mapped the microbiome of the the NY subway system. Buried in the article was a casual mention that they found anthrax and bubonic plague. Anthrax made it into the abstract. You had to dig to find the plague.

Weill Cornell’s press office issued a press release with an infographic and got lots of attention — perhaps more than they anticipated. Very quickly, hundreds of headlines were swirling on the web. Then, a bit of equivocation began.

Levi Fishman of the New York City Health Department said, “We don’t know what bacteria they found, but it’s definitely not the plague.” Then the senior author on the study, Christopher Mason, said, “There’s evidence for these things. But no one should worry.”

Maybe Weill Cornell’s press office should have thought about that angle — BEFORE they issued a press release about anthrax and the plague on the New York City subway system.

It’s a good thing New Yorkers are unflappable.

Click here to read more in the New York Times. Click here to read the study.

New York Subway, photograph © mark notari / flickr

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