Oral infection of rodents with Pasteurella pestis has been demonstrated with both fully virulent and avirulent strains. Sustained rodent plague epizootics have been initiated and maintained in the absence of the classical flea vector. Transmission was due to cannibalism of the dying rodents by their healthy cagemates. Oral infection is considered to provide a plausible mechanism for the persistence of plague in an area where conditions are temporarily unsuitable for flea transmission.
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