The Galveston Plague of 1920

While Ebola is the most recent incredibly unexpected disease to show up in Texas, it isn't anywhere near the most deadly. Long before anyone even knew Ebola existed, the city of Galveston grappled with an outbreak of bubonic plague.

When the first few patients started getting sick in June 1920, bubonic plague was such a foreign possibility that most doctors in the town didn't even consider it, according to reports from the time. It was only after the first patient, a 17-year-old boy, died that tests confirmed he'd had plague.

The disease sprang up in four different Gulf ports at almost the same time, including Galveston, according to a report published in 1921 by Dr. Mark Boyd and Dr. T.W. Kemmerer, the doctors who ran Galveston's plague laboratories. The timing indicated that there was a common source for the disease, but they were never able to figure out what the source was.

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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray