Bubonic Plague


Bubonic plague occurs when an individual is infected by the bacteria causing the infection. A person can be infected by the bacteria that cause the disease through a variety of ways. People suffering from bubonic plague will experience some pain on their lymph nodes along with high fever and severe headache. This bacterial infection could be deadly when left untreated. The treatment for bubonic plague helps sufferers deal with the related symptoms caused by the infection as well as prevents the disease from progressing any further. Prompt treatment, which involves hospitalization and administration of antibiotics, is conducive for positive prognosis among infected individuals.

Bubonic Plague History

The largest outbreak of Bubonic Plague was in the Early European period, between 1340 and 1500 which was called Black Death, this was also called  the worst human disaster ever in history. The Great Plague of Seville (1647), the Great Plague of London (1665–1666), the Great Plague of Vienna (1679), and the Great Plague of Marseille (1720) are other historical events, though they were not as severe as the Black Death. Sporadic cases emerged in 1994 in five Indian states, which caused more than 700 infections with 52 deaths. People migrated to other states in the county to avoid the spread of disease. Fortunately it was controlled, but there have been a few recent cases post 2000 in Peru. The latest case of Bubonic Plague was witnessed in Oregon, United States.

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What is the bubonic plague?

Bubonic plague is a type of bacterial infection which is quite deadly as it was able to take the lives of millions of people in only a short period of time. This is the deadliest and most common form of plague which targets the lymphatic system. The bacteria that cause the bubonic plague are also the ones responsible for the septicemic plague which targets the blood as well as the pneumonic plague which aims for the lungs.

Bubonic Plague Causes

The infection occurs when an individual is infected by the bacteria causing the plague – a gram-negative bacillus known as Yersinia pestis. People can get infected by the bacteria through various ways, such as:

  • Direct contact with infected animals

Dogs and cats may get the bacteria that cause the disease from biting, touching and eating infected rats or mice. People can be infected by the bacteria by touching the fluids from or infected skin of the infected cat or dog.

  • Bites from infected insects

Airborne insects such as flies and fleas live in infected and dead animals and eventually bite humans. These airborne insects love to inhabit various animals such as rodents, goats, stray dogs, squirrels, rabbits and coyotes.

  • Respiratory fluids from an infected person

An infected person can spread the bacteria that bring about the bubonic plague through sneezing and coughing.

How common is bubonic plague?

Statistics show that bubonic plaque is common all over the world, with up to 2,000 reported cases every year. Studies have revealed that the infection is prevalent in areas where sanitation is really poor. Without good sanitation, the environment is favorable for the disease-causing bacteria to flourish and spread to humans and animals.

Bubonic Plague Symptoms

The incubation period of Yersinia pestisis between 3 and 7 days, and symptoms may become evident after the eighth day. People infected with bubonic plague will experience the following symptoms:

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  • Enlarged and extremely painful lymph nodes
  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Malaise
  • Bleeding of the nose, mouth or rectum
  • Vomiting
  • Gangrene of the extremities
  • Hemorrhage underneath the skin

The lymph nodes are tender and feel so hot to the touch. Purpuric eruption may also be noted and medical complications may occur such as blood poisoning, meningitis and pneumonia.

Diagnosis of Bubonic Plague

A visit to the doctor is highly needed once symptoms emerge for a more definitive diagnosis. The doctor will conduct diagnostic tests to confirm bubonic plague by having the bubonic fluid examined microscopically for Yersinia Pestis. Some of the tests used are Wayson’s or Wright’s Stain Test, Giesma, Direct Fluorescent Antibody Test (DFA) and Gram Stain Test.

Bubonic plague treatment

The treatment for this illness will immediately start once a definitive diagnosis is obtained. Treatment plans are based on the severity of the bacterial infection and the patient’s medical history. Bubonic plague treatment primarily involves taking antibiotics to kill the bacteria as well as certain medications to resolve the associated symptoms. Patients should expect to be quarantined during the course of the treatment to prevent the disease from spreading to other people.

How to Prevent being infected by bubonic plague

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of this deadly bacterial infection is to pay attention to proper sanitation. Rats and airborne insects thrive in dirty areas. In fact, outbreak of bubonic plaque occurs in countries facing rat infestation problems. Reducing the possibility of bubonic plaque outbreaks involves:

  • Reducing the population of rats and rodents
  • Paying attention to unnatural behavior which could be conducive to plague outbreak such as animal sickness and deaths
  • Keeping the surroundings clean
  • Use of insecticides in areas where fleas flourish
  • Separating and treating animals with fleas
  • Separating and washing the clothes of the infected person in hot water
  • Vaccines shots should be taken by health workers or travelers who will be working or visiting in places where bubonic plague outbreak is present.

Bubonic plague is a life-threatening bacterial infection caused by Yersinia pestis. Patients should immediately seek medical attention upon the manifestation of symptoms as the disease may lead to death. There are precautionary measures that should be taken to prevent it from spreading any further.

Bubonic Plague Pictures

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