1902 Encyclopedia > Plague > Plague in India. Plague in China. Present Locations of Plague (1884).

(Bubonic Plague; Black Death; etc.)
(Part 14)

Plague in India. Plague in China. Present Locations of Plague (1884).

Plague in India

It used to be held as a maxim that plague never appeared east of the Indus; nevertheless it has been observed during this century in more than one district centre in India. So long ago as 1815 the disease appeared in Guzerat, Kattywar, and Cutch, "after three years of severe famine." It reappeared early next year, in the same locality, when it extended to Sind as far as Hyderabad, and in another south-east as far as Ahmedabad and Dhollerah. But it disappeared from these parts in 1820 or early in 1821, and was not heard of again till July 1836, when a disease broke out into violence at the town of Pali in Marwar in Rajputana. It spread from Pali to the province of Meywar, but died out spontaneously in the hot season of 1837, and has never been heard of again in that part of India. The origin of these two epidemics was obscure. No importation from other countries could be traced.

In 1823 (though not officially known till later) an epidemic broke out at Kedarnath in Gurwhal, a sub-district of Kumaon on the south-west of the Himalayas, on a high situation. In 1834 and 1836 other epidemics occurred, which at last attracted the attention of Government. In 1849-50, and again in 1852, the disease raged very severely and spread southward. In 1853 Dr Francis and Dr Pearson were appointed a commission to inquire into the malady. In 1876-77 another outbreak occurred, since which time no accounts of the epidemic have been received. The symptoms of this disease, called maha murree by the natives, are precisely, are those of Oriental plague. The feature of blood-spitting, to which much importance has been attached, appears to be not a common one. A very remarkable circumstance is the death of animals (rats, and more rarely snakes), which occurs at the outbreaks of an epidemic. The rats bring up blood, and the body of one examined after death by Dr Francis showed an affection of the lungs. Maha murree is intensely communicable, but does not show much tendency to spread, since pilgrims who visit the mountain shrines are not affected and do not convey the disease. It is doubtless connected with uncleanliness and poverty, but Dr Francis believes that the poison exists in the soil which becomes more and more contaminated with it. The disease is pretty clearly endemic, not imported. [Footnote 168-1]

Plague in China

It is remarkable that of late years reports have come of the occurrence of Oriental plague in China. It has been observed in the province of Yunnan since 1871, and also at Pakhoi, a part in the Tong-king Gulf, as lately as 1882, -- but said to have prevailed there at least years. In Yunnan it appears to be endemic, though there are rumours of its having been brought from Burmah [Burma], and become more noticeable after the suppression of a rebellion in that province. The climate is temperate and the country partly mountainous. Some regard the disease as being conveyed from Pakhoi to Yunnan. In both places the symptoms were the same, of undoubted bubonic plague. It has always been noticed, as in India, that rats leave their holes and die at the beginning of an epidemic; and the same mortality has been observed among cats, dogs, cattle, ponies, deer, &c. At Pakhoi it recurs nearly every year. [Footnote 168-2] Uncleanly habits have much to do with fostering the disease.

Present Locations of Plague (1884)

It thus appears that at the present time plague exists, or has existed within ten years, in the following parts of the world:-- (1) Benghazi, Africa; (2) Persian Kurdistan; (3) Irak [Iraq], on the Tigris and Euphrates; (4) the Asír country, western Arabia; (5) on the lower Volga, Russia; (6) northern Persia and the shows of the Caspian ; (7) Kumaon and Gurhwal, India; (8) Yunnan and Pakhoi, China. Except Benghazi all these places show an eastward recession as compared with the old seats of plague known to us.


168-1 On Indian plague, see Francis, Trans. Epidem. Soc. Lond. vol. iv. pp. 407-8; John Murray, ibid., vol. iv. part 2; J. N. Radcliffe, Reports of Local Government Board, 18875, 1876, 1877, and for 1879-80; Parliamentiary Papers, 1879; Frederick Forbes, On Plague in North-West Provincces of India, Edinburgh, 1840 (Dissertation); Hirsch, Handbuch der historischen-geog. Pathologie, vol. i p. 209, 1860 (Eng. trans. by Creghton, London, 1883); Hecker's Volkskrankheiten des Mittelalters, Berlin, 1865, p. 101; Webb, Pathologica Indica, 2nd ed. Calcutta, 1848.

168-2 See J. N. Radcliffe's Report for 1879-80, p. 45; Manson in Reports of Imperial Chinese Customs, special series No. 2, for half-year ended 31st March 1878, 15th issue, Shanghai; Lowry, "Notices on Epidemic Disease at Pakhoi," 1882, ibid., 24th issue, p. 31.

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