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JAMA 100 Years Ago
July 10, 2002

The Plague Pandemic.

Author Affiliations

JenniferReiling, Assistant Editor

JAMA. 2002;288(2):143. doi:10.1001/jama.288.2.143-JJY20020-2-1

The Local Government Board has published a thick volume of reports and papers on bubonic plague by Dr. R. Bruce Low. During the three years dealt with in Dr. Low's report, plague has become widespread, and has extended to every continent. Not until the wave has once more receded and opportunity has been thus afforded for weighing all the facts now being accumulated throughout the world can the epidemiologic, administrative, or other lessons to be learned from it be summarized. The records to which Dr. Low has had access, though they go to confirm belief that as regards plague man and the rat are reciprocally infective, do not afford sufficient data for determining the degree to which man is in danger through the rat. So far as plague ashore is concerned, it appears that in some localities man and the rat suffered from plague coincidently; that in others man suffered before the rat; and that in others the rat suffered before man. When in a particular district the one (man or the rat) has suffered plague antecedently to the other, the interval between invasion of the first and of the second species has been often variable, extending sometimes over weeks and months. Plague may prevail largely among men without rats becoming conspicuously affected, and conversely, the disease may cause large mortality among rats of a locality while exempting man. As regards plague on shipboard similar facts were forthcoming. The disease does not, under conditions of sea transit, appear to be at all readily conveyed from the rat to man or from man to the rat.

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