Bubonic Plague In Egypt

Egyptian Gazette Article Snippet

According to the Egyptian Gazette, August 28, 1905, the Bubonic plague has reported at least thirteen cases of individuals that had contracted this disease.

Interest in this snippet of information, housed within the Gazette (see figure below), stems from the fact that the Bubonic Plague (a.k.a. The Black Death), was not confined to Medieval Europe (as many readers would suspect). In fact, the Bubonic plague has existed for thousands of years, the first known case being recorded in China dating back to 224 B.C.E..

The most significant outbreak, and most noticeable, occurred in Europe in the mid-fourteenth century over a five year period (1347 to 1352). During this time period, sources indicate that at least 25 million people died, about one-third of the continent’s population (these numbers are disputed). The often disputed claims as to the cause of such a disease was further investigated in 2010 and 2011, when researchers analyzed DNA from some of its European victims. The consensus to date is that the pathogen responsible was the Yersinia pestis bacterium, which most likely caused several different forms of the plague.

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Seeing an outbreak within the borders of Egypt, with so few deaths was incredible, which warrants further understanding of this disease, how it was spread and who it affected. The Gazette’s article (above) mentions that approximately 13 cases were under treatment during the middle of August and beginning of September, 1905. With the plague’s notorious reputation, the Gazette’s allocated space to this pandemic is sapient, especially due to the many cattle deaths in the area within that same time period (the figure to the right indicates the area affected by the Bubonic Plague).

With modern populations shifted to cities in modern day, an unidentifiable plague in one of these areas would prove to be even more catastrophic than ever before.

For further study:

Yersinia Pestis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951374/

A Draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of the Black Death. https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v478/n7370/full/nature10549.html

Plague in 18th Century Egypt. https://contagions.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/plague-in-18th-century-egypt/

Will Hanley
Will Hanley
Associate Professor of History

I study the legal history of the Middle East and teach at Florida State University.