News This 1348 painting shows how plague devastated European cities like Florence

Black rats are also implicated in both outbreaks, which took place 800 years apart

Your Questions: 'My cat has turned into a crazy feline and attacks my ankles every time I walk past'

Q. I have a six-month-old, female, British short-haired cat. We had been getting along just fine, but recently she's turned into a crazy feline. Nearly every time I walk past her she attacks my ankles. I don't know what do to. Any suggestions? Steven, via e-mail

Bacteria outbreak kills baby in neonatal unit

A baby has died and six others were in isolation last night after an infection broke out in a hospital's neonatal unit.

Baby dies in hospital bug outbreak

One baby has died and six others were in an isolation ward tonight after a bug hit a hospital's neo-natal unit.

Takeaways targeted in 'Food Standards Agency' scam

As obvious targets for extortion scams go, the humble city-centre cafe would not seem to be the most likely choice for con artists.

Tania Sanchez: Fight germs: eat mince pies

In the month leading up to the 25th of December, a woman who lived the first half of her life in tropical Saigon – and who happens to be my mother – will drag a purchased fir tree into her cosy California home, where winter weather means a millimetre of morning frost on the windows that disappears by 9am.

Increase in asthma linked to Caesareans

Eight-year study of 3,000 children finds 80 per cent rise in risk

Why (some) women don't scrub up as well as men

In matters of personal hygiene, it is men who are viewed as the grimy sex while women strive to keep them scrubbed. But a survey has revealed that female cleanliness is a myth. Women were up to three times more likely to have dirty hands than men.

Salmonella outbreak warning

Food safety experts were last night trying to trace the source of an outbreak of a new strain of salmonella that has spread throughout the British Isles.

US scientist had purified anthrax

US Army scientist Bruce Ivins had sole custody of highly purified anthrax spores with "certain genetic mutations identical" to the poison that killed five people and rattled America in 2001, according to documents unsealed today in the government's investigation.

Steve Connor: A potential battlefield killer – and a weapon of mass hysteria

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by a bacterium, Bacillus anthracis, which can form highly resistant spores that can lie dormant in the soil for many decades. It has been extensively investigated as a potential biological weapon by Britain, America, Iraq and the former Soviet Union, although it has never been used in open warfare.

Last Night's TV: The good doctor laid it all on the table

Just don't expect me not to snigger, that's all. I know we're supposed to be grown-up about these things and that today's children are, notionally at least, growing up hideously ignorant about sexual health and that it's a thoroughly good thing that Dr Alice Roberts is giving us a brisk introduction to our reproductive organs to kick off her series Don't Die Young. But when she talked about "my user's guide to the male reproductive organ", I'm afraid I couldn't repress the unruly boy slouching on the back row who wanted Miss to explain precisely what she used it for. Was she going to offer star ratings? Handy tips for the novice handler? Small boy piped up again when she delivered one of her pieces to camera from the crotch of the Cerne Abbas giant and, I regret to say, when we were introduced to her male guinea pig, an events organiser called Mark Smallman. With a name such as that, Mr Smallman must have had a very wearying time in his teenage years, but he can now lay the past to rest. His testicles, we have it on sound medical authority, are an excellent size, and the sample of semen he had tested looked as busy as a municipal lido in the middle of a heatwave. As in the lido, there always seems to be one maniac, head down and doing a splashy sprint from corner to corner.

Microcosm: E.coli And The New Science Of Life, by Carl Zimmer

From soiled nappies comes a tiny wonder – with a giant role in genetics

Paperbacks: Match Wits With the Kids, by Jonathan Green

Though based on the yawn-making "Key Stage 3 of the National Curriculum", this jolly compendium will enlighten all who dip in.

Householders told to boil water after safety alert

Thousands of people were warned to boil drinking water today after a contamination scare.

The 5-minute Interview: Gregg Wallace, food expert and TV presenter

'I'd like to have been a rugby player, then a history professor'
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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there