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The Couple that Caught Bubonic Plague from Infected Fleas

ByKristine AllingtonNOVA NextNOVA Next

Produced by Jasmyn Belcher Morris for StoryCorps

“It was the first case of plague in New York City in over a hundred years.”

In 2002, Lucinda Marker and her husband, John Tull, came down with the bubonic plague—the same bacterial infection that killed about one-third of Europe’s population in the Middle Ages.

Today, the plague is rare in the U.S., only a handful catch it each year and it’s mostly found in Southwest states—where Lucinda and John live.

They were bitten by fleas infected with plague near their home in New Mexico, and fell ill while vacationing in New York City.


Marker and Tull shared the experience of their rare and unexpected illness with StoryCorps .

Funding for NOVA Next is provided by the Eleanor and Howard Morgan Family Foundation.

National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.