How did the Cattle Plague affect populations during the year of 1905?

In discussing reoccurring issues within the Digital Egyptian Gazette, several medical conditions were mentioned, affecting the people of Egypt and beyond. The serial question I have chosen to answer is, “How did the Cattle Plague affect populations during the year of 1905?” Specifically, this topic caught my interest because I was only previously aware of the bubonic plague, but not aware of the cattle plague. I was clueless to what defines the cattle plague, and wanted to learn more about how it affected Egyptians in 1905. I am also asking this question because general epidemics of serious health conditions were becoming a problem with morality rates in Africa and Asia. We know medicine back in the early 20th century was not advanced enough to work on containing or reducing epidemic situations, and not able to establish herd immunity as we do today. The information found within the Digital Egyptian Gazette can provide exact numbers of mortality rates amongst populations, locations of where the epidemic of cattle plague has spread, detailed case stories of cattle plague, issues relating to the trading crisis, and delays in societal progression.

To begin with, what exactly is Cattle Plague? Well, cattle plague is classified as one of the ten deadliest plagues found in Egypt. It is an infectious disease of cattle and can spread through either a direct mode of transmission from the cattle, or through an indirect mode of transmission, such as drinking contaminated water, or breathing in contaminated air particles. Because of the lack of immunizations to cattle plague, or several other plagues, almost anyone was a susceptible host to cattle plague. Symptoms would include fever like conditions, oral erosions, diarrhea, lymphoid necrosis, and the obvious result of high rates of death due to this variety of deadly conditions of the cattle plague. Cattle plague, also known as Rinderpest, originated way back in Asian countries around B.C. ages.

Rinderpest did not reach Egyptian grounds until 3,000 BC, and was recorded on Egyptian papyrus and tablets. In the year of 1905, as mentioned in the dated Digital Egyptian Gazette, cattle plague was only an acute outbreak of infectious disease by this time. However, there was a previous massive epidemic of cattle plague in the 1890’s, affecting most African countries and causing lifestyles to change. For example, the trade crisis was mentioned in an April issue of the Digital Egyptian Gazette (April 24, 1905). The trade crisis occurred for several reasons, however, two highlighted reasons included a fall of cotton products and the loss of cattle products due to the cattle plague. With this, traders were having much difficulty in receiving payments from customers, due to the most recent loss of goods needed for trading purposes. Specifically with the cattle plague epidemic in the 1890’s, markets were closing down, making it difficult to reopen safe markets, and recover from lost resources. Especially, if the cattle plague was still a reoccurring issues and mortality rates were still increasing by the few hundreds.

In order to find the data and information needed for my analysis on cattle plague, I am querying the text for terms such as: “cattle”, “plague”, “mortality”, “trade” and “bubonic plague”, to compare the information of those affected by both plagues during the year of 1905. After searching with each key word, I found that Cattle Plague mostly affected the Egyptian Market Companies, being closed for over two year due to outbreaks of cattle plague, as mentioned in an issue of the Egyptian Gazette in October (October 4, 1905). As a result to the markets reopening, The Sanitary Departments have been ordered to inspect to make sure that the plague has been reduced and will not be an issue in the markets any longer. Many believed the plague was “over” and has “almost disappeared”, as stated in issues of the Egyptian Gazette, published first in April (April 26, 1905) and later found in another October issue (October 4th, 1905). Although, mortality rates were reducing by 1905, that does not mean the issue cattle plague has been erased.

In my visualization chart, provided as an attachment to this analysis paper, the Cattle Plague mortality rates are recorded since the epidemic began. Unfortunately, the Digital Egyptian Gazette was very limited on these values, only providing data from a time spam of a two month difference. However, these values still remain of interest because they are still the total number of deaths due to the cattle plague within three important Egyptian regions: Gouvernorates, Lower Egypt, and Upper Egypt.

According to the Digital Egyptian Gazette, mortality rates were recorded in the months of May and July. According to the data found in a May issue of the Digital Egyptian Gazette (May 29, 1905), three deaths were noticed within that week due to cattle plague. 543 deaths were noted since January of that year which also shows cattle plague was still appearing within populations in Egypt. Since the commencement of the cattle plague epidemic in the 1890’s, the Egyptian Gazette provides even more data on mortality rates: 892 recorded deaths in Gouvernorates, 54,089 recorded deaths in Lower Egypt, and 92,381 recorded deaths in Upper Egypt. To continue on, these numbers were updated in a July issue of the Digital Egyptian Gazette (July 10, 1905). With this, the updated values remained constant for Gouvernorates and changed by the few hundreds in Lower and Upper regions of Egypt. In Lower Egypt, there were now 54,193 recorded deaths, and 92,536 recorded deaths were noted in Upper Egypt. All in all, there was a change of 104 more recorded deaths in Lower Egypt, and 155 more recorded deaths in Upper Egypt. That totals to 259 more deaths in Egypt due to cattle plague within two months alone. Therefore, I would disagree with the previous statements of cattle plague “almost disappearing” because it was still a common medical crisis interrupting healthy trades and safe environments.

In comparison to the Bubonic plague, more cases were reported in regards to Bubonic plague versus cattle plague. Bubonic plague is most famously known to affect those within Medieval Times, however as stated by classmate Erek Cyr, Bubonic Plague “is not just a medieval problem”. As found in issues of the Digital Egyptian Gazette, there were thirteen reported cases of bubonic plague between the months of August and September (found in the issue of August 28th 1905). The “Black Death” is another plague that many believed had “almost disappeared”. Although, there are still cases of mortality rates increases, just as the mortality rates are increasing due to cattle plague. All in all, plague is difficult to just get rid of, at least not without proper immunization methods.

Going back to the topic of Cattle Plague, one case study that caught my curiosity was a murder case described in a May issue of the Digital Egyptian Gazette, (May 30, 1905). To sum it up, there was a murder by Ghaffir when a native customer decided to come back into the markets to sell his cattle. The Ghaffir informed the customer that business of selling cattle was profited due to recent cases of cattle plague still being reported. Without giving the man a chance to speak about his cattle to sell, the Ghaffir just ended the conversation by killing the man and his cattle. Of course, reading this nowadays is shocking because that is an act of insanity and unfairness. But for the Egyptians, it was an act of plague prevention and awareness of safety. Cattle plague was an outbreak that led citizens to desperate measures, such as murder of innocents.

All in all, to answer my previous serial question of “How did the Cattle Plague affect populations during the year of 1905?”, I used multiple issues of the Digital Egyptian Gazette to find my data, as well as more information on other topics, by querying terms such as: “cattle”, “plague”, “mortality”, “trade” and “bubonic plague. First of all, I have answered an initial question as to what cattle plague is and what are the plague’s origins. I have discussed how it is possible to become a susceptible host to cattle plague, which can be anyone without vaccination. I have provided values in regards to mortality rates explained within my analysis, and illustrated in a line graph of the increase of death rates in three separate regions of Egypt; noted as my visualization for this analysis. Also coming from issues of the Digital Egyptian Gazette, I have described individual stories in detail of murder cases, due to markets closing after years of infestation of the cattle plague. Lastly, I have used the Digital Egyptian Gazette to connect information about the cattle plague to the aftermath of trade crisis, marketing issues, and cases of bubonic plague that were also still occurring in Egypt. As the analysis has been coming together, I have noticed that the cattle plague in the year of 1905 was on an acute outbreak. However, the epidemic affected several in the 1890’s, causing Egypt to recover from the consequences of cattle plague. There is an emphasis on increasing sales of cattle, but with some limitations. Individuals were still catching symptoms of severe fever due to cattle plague. To sum it all up, the cattle plague epidemic continued for a while, but early 19th century was an even more difficult time to survive plague because immunity was not developed for cattle plague until 1913. Thankfully, attempts from the Sanitary Department of Egypt were used to inspect cattle throughout this acute outbreak, regarding the safety of cattle and products consumed by the Egyptian people.

Daisy Vazquez
Daisy Vazquez

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in fall 2016.