Plague

(Pneumonic Plague; Bubonic Plague; Septicemic Plague; Pharyngeal Plague)

Definition

Plague is an infectious disease with an infamous past in human history. Because of its contagious nature, plague is a weapon of bioterrorism. Although it is not as common as it once was, outbreaks of plague do occur today.Types of plague include:
  • Pneumonic—in the lungs, from breathing in droplets or as a progression of another type
  • Bubonic—in the lymph nodes, occurring after a flea bite
  • Septicemic—a body system-wide infection, occurring after a flea bite
Plague is treated with isolation and antibiotics.

Causes

Plague is caused by specific bacteria.Bubonic and septicemic plagues are spread by bites from infected fleas. Transmission can also occur when a person comes in contact with infected tissue or bodily fluids from another person or animal.Pneumonic plague is spread by droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The disease is transmitted to another person when the droplets are inhaled. Transmission by droplets is the only way pneumonic plague spreads among people.
Pneumonic Plague Transmission
Droplets from an infected person are inhaled into the lungs.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of getting plague include:
  • Exposure to the bacteria
  • Contact with fleas or infected rodents
  • Living in the Southwest United States
You can get more information about the distribution of plague from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Symptoms

Pneumonic plague may cause:
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Bloody or watery mucous
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
Bubonic plague may cause:
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes
  • Skin that may appear red and tight over affected lymph nodes
Septicemic plague may cause:
  • Bleeding under the skin
  • Black fingers, toes, or nose
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness
Complications of plague include shock , organ failure, and death.

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