On 3 August 1900, bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) broke out in Glasgow for the first time during the Third Pandemic. The local sanitary authorities rigorously tracked the spread of the disease and they found that nearly all of the 35 cases could be linked by contact with a previous case. Despite trapping hundreds of rats in the area, there was no evidence of a rat epizootic and the investigators speculated that the outbreak could be due to human-to-human transmission of bubonic plague. Here we use a likelihood-based method to reconstruct transmission trees for the outbreak. From the description of the outbreak and the reconstructed trees, we infer several epidemiological parameters. We found that the estimated mean serial interval was 7.4–9.2 days and the mean effective reproduction number dropped below 1 after implementation of control measures. We also found a high rate of secondary transmissions within households and observations of transmissions from individuals who were not terminally septicaemic. Our results provide important insights into the epidemiology of a bubonic plague outbreak during the Third Pandemic in Europe.
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