Lessons from the past


A plague. A series of politicians in denial. Blaming everything on the Chinese. A disease only brought under control when the citizens finally pay attention to what the scientists are saying.

Sound familiar? Sure does. It’s the Bubonic Plague outbreak in San Francisco over a hundred years ago.

Comments

  1. Rowan vet-tech says

    I watched that last night! Despite both of us being California natives and both of us learning about the 1906 quake in school, neither of us had been taught about the plague.

  2. anxionnat says

    I’d never heard of the bubonic plague in SF in 1901, though I grew up right across the Bay and some of my mentors were people who lived through the 1906 Earthquake and then relocated to Berkeley. One even lived in a house which was built by her family immediately after the quake. However, some of the names of the rich, powerful (and criminal) are familiar to any California kid who takes 4th grade California history. Shades of 2020! When our modern coronaplague has abated, I’d suggest a visit to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. It’s our own west coast equivalent of Ellis Island, plus anti-Asian racism. Fascinating, heartbreaking, and powerful history there!

  3. wzrd1 says

    Interestingly, military sanitation courses cover this case – as precisely how to not respond to any kind of outbreak. Interrupted mitigation efforts can actually worsen the outbreak by allowing the vector to escape containment zones uncontrollably, spreading the infected vector organisms widely. Which is precisely what began to happen gradually, until the earthquake provided perfect storm conditions.

    Thankfully, plague is a reportable disease and is swiftly responded to, turning it into an annoyance in the US. Even if wildlife vector outbreaks of bubonic and pneumonic plague outbreaks still rear their heads up occasionally in Mongolia, to be equally swiftly responded to.

    Ironically, our modern filter masks having a direct lineage to Dr Wu’s cloth filter masks he enforced the wear of in the 1910 pneumonic plague pandemic. A French physician dismissed the notion of the mask., whilst tying an ethnic epithet, to promptly die with days of the plague.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Lien-teh

    Of course, we had the same mask arguments in 1918, but people ensured eventual compliance by their neighbors. Some fuckwits simply refuse to learn from history.

  4. captainjack says

    wzrd1 @ #3
    “Some fuckwits simply refuse to learn from history.”
    Shorter:
    Fuckwits simply refuse to learn.

  5. kingoftown says

    @wzrd1
    “Interrupted mitigation efforts can actually worsen the outbreak by allowing the vector to escape containment zones uncontrollably, spreading the infected vector organisms widely.”

    The UK’s current (or at least pre covid…) efforts to eradicate Bovine TB are a good example. Thanks to the tory government’s reliance on rural voters they wanted to give the impression they were dealing with this disease. Rather than doing something sensible like placing better controls on the movement of cattle or developing a vaccine they decided to scapegoat badgers. This had the double benefit of giving the impression they were doing something and sating the bloodlust of the sort of people who like to watch dogs rip foxes apart.

    Their methods (trapping and shooting) allow badgers to escape and badger’s fleeing their setts actually spread the disease. Obviously this fact would have stopped the expansion of the trial cull if the goal was to actually eradicate the disease but the fact it was already known in 1997 (The Krebs Report) suggests they have some other motive.

  6. efogoto says

    I am yet another Bay Area native and lifelong resident that heard plenty about the earthquake and fire – and not a peep about the plague. I’m 59 now and this is the first I’ve heard of it. Thanks for posting the video.

  7. davidc1 says

    @5 Bastard tories ,it seems everything they touch turns to poop ,a sort of King Midas in reverse .
    That bastard shape shifting git johnson must have been jealous of the donald setting up a space force ,he has recently said he is going to spurge £16 Billon on laser guns and launching a rocket ,bugger knows where ,and something about cyber space ,and rockets .

  8. Mobius says

    A very good, though quite grim, book centered on the Plague in England in the 14th century is Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book. A good read, but avoid if you don’t like grim.

  9. numerobis says

    wzrd1: bubonic plague is endemic in small rodents in Southern California. There’s “don’t feed the squirrels” signs in the parks pointing this out. It’s not just Mongolia.

    The risk of an epidemic is about nil since we have better sanitation now; mortality is much reduced because we have antibiotics.

  10. raven says

    Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book. A good read, but avoid if you don’t like grim.

    I’ll have to second this.
    Connie Willis exhaustively researches her historical fiction and this is as close as you can get to actually being in 1348. (Yeah, I know it starts out in 2054, the time travel is just enabling the real story.)

    bubonic plague is endemic in small rodents in Southern California.

    The bubonic plague is endemic in small rodents every where in the west. One notable species are prairie dogs where the plague has greatly reduced their numbers.
    Odd fact. The bubonic plague is apparently not native to North America and was probably introduced by…the 1901 San Francisco plague.

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