Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Pneumonic Plague: Incidence, Transmissibility and Future Risks

Version 1 : Received: 5 December 2021 / Approved: 9 December 2021 / Online: 9 December 2021 (10:32:40 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Evans, C. Pneumonic Plague: Incidence, Transmissibility and Future Risks. Hygiene 2022, 2, 14-27. Evans, C. Pneumonic Plague: Incidence, Transmissibility and Future Risks. Hygiene 2022, 2, 14-27.


Pneumonic plague outbreaks are relatively infrequent in modern times but in the early part of the 20th century, they were commonplace including several well-documented epidemics responsible for the deaths of thousands. The transmissibility of this disease seems to be discontinuous since in some outbreaks few transmissions occur, while in others, the progression of the epidemic is explosive. Modern epidemiological studies explain that transmissibility within populations is heterogenous with relatively few subjects likely to be responsible for most transmissions and that ‘super spreading events’, particularly at the start of an outbreak, can lead to a rapid expansion of cases. These findings concur with outbreaks observed in real-world situations. It is often reported that pneumonic plague is rare and not easily transmitted but this view could lead to unnecessary complacency since future risks such as the spontaneous incidence of anti-microbial strains, climate change leading to a disruption of natural cycles within plague foci and use of plague as a bioweapon cannot be discounted. Carers and first responders are vulnerable, particularly in poorer countries where access to medicines may be limited, out-breaks occur in inaccessible areas or where there is a lack of surveillance due to a paucity of funds.


Pneumonic plague; transmission; risk; frequency; epidemic


Medicine and Pharmacology, Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases

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