Rats & # 39; Wrongly Debt & # 39; before 1900 Glasgow plague outbreak

The first cases were in the middle of the crowded and unhygienic houses of the GorbalsImage copyright
Picture Post

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The first cases broke out in the busy and unhygienic homes of the Gorbals

New research has finally established the cause of a plague epidemic in Glasgow almost 120 years ago.

A team from the University of Oslo said that rats were wrongly blamed and the real culprits were people.

The plague struck Glasgow in August 1900, with the first cases amidst the overcrowded and unhygienic homes of the Gorbals.

The outbreak was part of the Third Plague Pandemic, which started in 1855 and was only declared in 1960.

I stepped out of the light

The first pandemic was the plague of Justinian and the second was the black death in the 1300s.

The Third Pandemic has killed millions of people, mostly in China and India.

These terrible standards made Glasgow relatively free with 35 infected people and 16 deaths.

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Haywood Magee

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Glasgow took drastic measures to stop the spread of the plague

Drastic measures have been taken to stop the outbreak.

There were calls for trams, ferries, even to disinfect coins, and hundreds of rats were killed by a small army of exterminators.

The killing of rats was a fashionable solution at the time.

& # 39; Parasites of Humanity & # 39;

Just two years earlier, the French researcher Paul-Louis Simond had shown how fleas of rats could transfer the bully of the bacillus Yersinia pestis.

Glasgow's public health authorities had their doubts and suspected that humans, and no rodents, were transferring it.

They found no evidence of plague in the rat population, and concluded that the disease might have spread directly among humans, possibly by what they described almost poetically as "the suctorial parasites of humanity."

Now 119 years later, the Oslo study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, concludes that the infection was indeed spread through contact between man and man.

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Glasgow Libraries

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Map with the spread of plague cases in Glasgow in 1900

Lead author Katharine Dean and her colleagues, from the University's Center for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, said they were able to draw their conclusions thanks to the meticulous data that the sanitary authorities kept at that time.

As early as 1900, the authorities had noticed that almost all cases could be linked by contact with a previous one.

Despite catching hundreds of rats that were abundant in the slums, they found no signs of a rodent outbreak.

Day zero

The town's medical health officer immediately opened an investigation into the spread of the disease.

It established August 3, 1900 as Day Zero and noted that when "Mrs B, a fish store" became the first to get sick, along with her granddaughter.

The authorities then searched for people who had ties with Mrs B or who had attended her funeral soul.

This led to the quarantine of more than 100 people in a "reception home" for observation.

With the support of the Catholic Church, awakening cases after bullying were forbidden.

In the new research modern methods were used to expand the historical data, with a high percentage of secondary infections in households being found.

The incubation time for each infection also indicated transfer from person to person.

The authors said that their results provided an important insight into the epidemiology of an outbreak of bubonic plague during the Third Pandemic in Europe.

It also confirmed what officials had suspected all those years ago: the rats of Glasgow got a bad reputation.

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