Rats ‘wrongly blamed’ for 1900 Glasgow plague outbreak

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

A team at the University of Oslo said rats were wrongly blamed and the real culprits were humans.

Plague hit Glasgow in August 1900, with the initial cases amid the crowded and unsanitary tenements of the Gorbals.

The outbreak was part of the Third Plague Pandemic, which had begun in 1855 and was not declared over until 1960.

Got off lightly

The first pandemic was the Plague of Justinian and the second was the Black Death in the 1300s.

The Third Pandemic killed millions of people, most of them in China and India.

By those terrible standards Glasgow got off relatively lightly with 35 people infected and 16 killed.

Glasgow took drastic measures to halt the spread of the plague
Image copyright HAYWOOD MAGEE
Image caption Glasgow took drastic measures to halt the spread of the plague

Drastic measures were employed to halt the outbreak.

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

Killing rats was a fashionable solution at the time.


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