Eyam

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Eyam
The Plague Cottages, many of whose residents died during the outbreak
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The Plague Cottages, many of whose residents died during the outbreak
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The remembrance service, 2002

Eyam is a small village in Derbyshire, England. It is famous for being the "plague village" that chose to isolate itself when bubonic plague was found in the village in August 1665, rather than see the infection travel further in the north of England.

The plague had been brought to the village in a bundle of cloth that arrived from London. After the initial deaths, the panicked townspeople turned to their rector, William Mompesson. He persuaded them to quarantine the entire village to prevent the disease from spreading further. The plague raged in the village for 16 months and killed at least 260 villagers. A year later, after the first outsiders visited Eyam, half the town had survived the plague. Survival appeared random, as many plague survivors had close contact with the bacterium but never caught the disease. Elizabeth Hancock never became ill, despite burying six children and her husband in a week. The village gravedigger handled hundreds of plague-ravaged corpses, but ultimately survived.

Recent bacteriological research indicates that the villagers may have had some genetic protection from the bubonic plague (see1 (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_plague/index.html)). A CCR5 gene mutation designated as "delta 32" was found in a statisticly significant number, 14%, of direct descendents of the plague survivors. The delta 32 mutation appears to be very rare. In fact, the levels of delta 32 found in Eyam were only matched in regions of Europe that had been affected by the plague and in Americans of European origin.

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