1994 plague epidemic in Surat

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Surat plague
Date 1994 (1994)
Location Surat, Gujarat, India
Cause possibly Yersinia pestis endemic
Outcome 1.5 million people migrated
Deaths 52

In 1994, a pneumonic plague epidemic broke out in India. It was particularly widespread in Surat, Gujarat, where it resulted in 52 deaths and in a large internal migration of about a quarter of the city's 1.5 million, who fled fearing quarantine.[1]

A combination of heavy monsoon rain and clogged sewers led to massive flooding which resulted in unhygienic conditions and a number of uncleared animal carcasses. It is believed that this situation precipitated the epidemic.[2] There was widespread fear that the flood of refugees might spread the epidemic to other parts of India and the world, but that scenario was averted, probably as a result of effective public health response mounted by the Indian health authorities.[3]

Much like the Black Death that spread through medieval Europe, some questions still remain unanswered about the 1994 epidemic in Surat.[4]

Initial questions about whether it was an epidemic of plague arose because the Indian health authorities were unable to culture Yersinia pestis, but this could have been due to lack of sophisticated laboratory equipment.[4] Yet there are several lines of evidence strongly suggesting that it was a plague epidemic: blood tests for Yersinia were positive, a number of individuals showed antibodies against Yersinia and the clinical symptoms displayed by the affected were all consistent with the disease being plague.[5]


  1. ^ Byrne, Joseph Patrick (2008). Encyclopedia of Pestilence, Pandemics, and Plagues: A-M. ABC-CLIO. pp. 542–543. ISBN 978-0-313-34102-1. Retrieved 25 November 2011.  (limited preview)
  2. ^ "Surat: A Victim of Its Open Sewers". New York Times. September 25, 1994. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  3. ^ Burns, John F. (September 29, 1994). "With Old Skills and New, India Battles the Plague". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  4. ^ a b Hazarika, Sanjoy (March 14, 1995). "Plague's Origins A Mystery". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  5. ^ "The Surat Plague and its Aftermath". Godshen Robert Pallipparambil. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 

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