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The Mixtec people, who created vast civilizations, including this one near Oaxaca, were devastated by a mysterious illness. Photo: DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI / Getty Contributor

A mysterious illness that devastated native civilizations in the 1500s may have been identified, according to a paper published Monday in Nature Ecology and Evolution. “In less than a century, the number of people living in Mexico fell from an estimated 20 million to 2 million,” writes The Atlantic’s Sarah Zhang. The researchers found DNA from Salmonella enterica, which causes paratyphoid fever, in the teeth of 11 people.

Why it matters: Some scholars believe such plagues made it easier for the Spanish and English to conquer the complex, sophisticated nations that existed in the Americas before Columbus’ arrival. European colonists brought dozens of diseases to the Americas (and brought a smaller number back to Europe). Since native populations had no immunities, the pathogens swept through towns, killing millions long before the colonists themselves arrived.

Go deeper

Updated 43 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

2 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.