To determine the dynamics of the transmission of Aeromonas salmonicida ssp. salmonicida infection, chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, were exposed to bacteria by cohabitation. The latent period (time between exposure and infectivity) was determined by exposing a group of chinook salmonid fingerlings to A. salmonicida by bath, then, at daily intervals, by holding five exposed (donor) fish with approximately 50 naive fish for 24 h. The latent period was 3 days post-infection and the time period between the initial exposure to bacteria and the beginning of bacterial shedding was 4.5 days for the same animals. The prevalence and intensity of infection in the donor fish, to which recipient fish were exposed, i.e. the level of exposure, was highly correlated with the development of disease in recipient (susceptible) chinook salmon (r(2) = 0.57). An experiment was conducted to determine the daily progress of infection and development of a furunculosis epidemic among recipient fish by cohabiting a single exposed fish with 43 unexposed salmon. At daily intervals, all fish (in seven treatment tanks and one control tank daily) were sacrificed and tested for the presence of A. salmonicida in the kidney (n = 3520). Over 10 days, mean prevalence among recipient fish reached 75% and disease related mortality exceeded 50%. Bacterial concentrations in the water continued to increase over the duration of the experiment in concert with the number of infected animals present in the population.