Plague-Cause Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment

 Plague spreads by fleas. a deadly bacterial disease. Little rodents, like the kind often seen in rural and semi-rural areas of Africa, Asia, and the United States, are hosts to the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis. Fleas that have eaten on infected rodents can spread the disease to humans, and people who come into contact with diseased animals can also contract it.

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Just about 5,000 people a year get infected with the plague globally. If antibiotics aren’t given quickly, it can be fatal. Swollen, painful lymph nodes (buboes) in the groin, armpits, or neck are frequent symptoms of the most common form of plague. The most lethal form of plague is an extremely rare kind that attacks the lungs and is spread by interpersonal contact.


Depending on what area of the body is affected, bubonic, septicemic, or pneumonic plague is diagnosed. The symptoms of the plague can range from mild to severe.

Plague with the bubonic origin

The most frequent type of plague is bubonic plague. It gets its name from the enlarged lymph nodes (buboes) that appear in the early stages of infection. Sensitive and firm to the touch, buboes can be found in the groin, armpit, or neck and have the following characteristics:

Other symptoms associated with bubonic plague include:

  • Fever and chills that come on suddenly, headache, lethargy, and muscle aches are also symptoms.

Symptoms of the septicemic plague

When the plague germs in your circulation grow, you develop a septicemic plague.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Shock, bleeding from the mouth, nose, or rectum, or beneath the skin, fever, chills, extreme weakness, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Tissue death (gangrene) in your extremities, most frequently your fingers, toes, and nose.

Contagious pneumonia

Infected lungs are a common symptom of pneumonic plague. As it may be passed from person to person through cough droplets, this strain of the plague is the most dangerous despite being the rarest. Initial symptoms may appear just a few hours after infection and may include:

Symptoms such as:

  • coughing up bloody mucus (sputum), difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, high temperature, headache, weakness, and chest pain are all signs of something more serious.

Plague with pneumonic plague can rapidly worsen, potentially leading to respiratory collapse and shock within two days of illness. Antibiotics can save a person’s life if given within a day of when symptoms of pneumonic plague first arise.

The Importance of Knowing When to Seek Medical Attention

Get emergency medical assistance if you become sick after visiting an area where the plague has been reported. Medication treatment is necessary to avoid potentially fatal consequences.

Human cases of the disease have been documented in a number of western and southwestern states across the United States. Geographically, rural and semi-rural areas of Africa (particularly the island of Madagascar), South America, and Asia have the highest rates of plague occurrence worldwide.


Fleas that have dined on infected rodents, mice, squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, chipmunks, voles, and other small mammals can spread the disease germs to people through their bites.

You can also contract the bacterium if you scratch or cut yourself near an infected animal and the blood then seeps into the wound. Disease can be transmitted to domestic cats and dogs by flea bites or through the consumption of diseased rodents.

Inhaling infectious droplets coughed into the air by a sick animal or person is the primary mode of transmission of pneumonic disease, which damages the lungs.

Possible dangers

The potential for contracting plague is negligible. Only a few thousand persons per year contract plague all over the world. But, your risk of contracting the plague will increase if you are in a high-risk demographic, have a high-risk occupation, or engage in high-risk recreational activities.


Overcrowded, poorly maintained, and rodent-infested rural and semirural areas are the most likely to have a diagnosis outbreak. Human cases of the plague are most common in Africa, particularly on the island nation of Madagascar. Asia and South America also had plague cases.

Plague is rare in the US, however New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Colorado have reported cases.


Domestic cats and dogs pose a greater threat of spreading the plague to veterinarians and their staff because of the increased likelihood of interaction with sick animals. The risk of contracting diseaseincreases for those who labor outside in places where diseased animals are prevalent.


Camping, hunting, or traveling near diseased animals increases the risk of flea bites.


It’s possible that plague could cause complications like:

  • Death. Most persons who are treated quickly with antibiotics for bubonic disease will recover. Disease has a high mortality rate if left untreated.
  • Gangrene. Clots can form in the capillaries of your fingers and toes, cutting off blood supply and eventually killing off the affected tissue. In some cases, your fingers and toes may need to have the dead tissue removed (amputated).
  • Meningitis. In rare cases, plague can cause inflammation of the membranes that cover your brain and spinal cord (meningitis).


There is currently no cure, but researchers are actively striving to create a vaccine. Antibiotics can help you avoid sickness if you’re at risk. If you live in or travel to a region experiencing a disease outbreak, please observe the following safety measures:

Put in measures to keep rodents out of your house. Remove any brush, stones, firewood, or trash that could nest. Keep pet food away from rats. Immediately eliminate a rodent infestation.

  • Prevent fleas on your pets at all costs. See your pet’s vet for recommendations on effective flea control products.
  • Put on some gloves. Use gloves to avoid getting bacteria on your hands from handling infected animals.
  • Put on some bug spray. If you live in a region with a high rodent population, you should exercise extra caution when taking your kids and pets outside. Put on some bug spray.


If your doctor suspects plague, he or she may test samples taken from you for the Yersinia pestis bacteria.

  • Buboes. Your doctor may take a fluid sample from your enlarged lymph nodes (buboes) to diagnose bubonic plague (aspiration).
  • Blood. Only if you have septicemic disease will you have the Yersinia pestis bacterium circulating in your blood.
  • Lungs. Using a small, flexible tube inserted through the nose or mouth and down the throat, your doctor will collect mucus (sputum) or fluid from your airways to test for pneumonic disease (endoscopy).



If your doctor suspects you have the disease, they will want to admit you to the hospital immediately. The antibiotics you’ll be given are among the most potent available.


  • Gentamicin Doxycycline (Monodox, Vibramycin, others)
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Levofloxacin
  • Moxifloxacin (Avelox), and Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)

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