Australia’s only outbreak of pneumonic plague occurred in Maryborough in 1905. Maryborough at that time was Queensland’s largest port – a thriving hub for wool, meat, timber and other rural products.
Had it not have been the dedication of the two nurses who willingly sacrificed their own lives the outbreak could have had catastrophic consequences. Only eight people were to die, yet had the disease spread it could have caused an epidemic of massive proportions which may have killed tens of thousands across Australia. Those eight people included five neglected children all from one family, a neighbour who assisted the family by laying out the corpse of the first victim, and two nurses.
To understand the dangers involved in the 1905 outbreak, it is necessary to give a brief definition of the word plague: