CRDAMC Homepage | CRDAMC Library Phone #: (254) 288-8366 | CRDAMC Library Fax #: (254) 288-8368

Search Health Library

Plague

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

Definition

Plague is a bacterial infection.

There are 3 types:

  • Bubonic—most common
  • Pneumonic—rare, but almost always leads to death
  • Septicemic

Causes    TOP

Certain bacteria cause plague. How it spreads:

  • Bubonic and septicemic—
    • A bite from an infected flea
    • Exposure to bodily fluids from a sick person or animal
  • Pneumonic—breathing it in after a person coughs or sneezes

Spreading Pneumonic Plague

Breathing in droplets from an infected person.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors    TOP

Your risk is higher if you live in or travel to places where plague is common. It’s found in the southwestern and western US, and other parts of the world.

Risk is also higher if you:

  • Are in contact with a person who has plague
  • Work with animals
  • Get a flea bite

Symptoms    TOP

Bubonic:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes—your skin may appear red and tight over these areas

Pneumonic:

  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Bloody or watery mucus
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain

Septicemic:

  • Bleeding under the skin
  • Black fingers, toes, or nose
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness

Diagnosis    TOP

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and health and travel history. You may have:

Public health officials will work quickly to find the source of plague to set up testing and care.

Treatment    TOP

Antibiotics treat the infection. Care will start right away. This may include isolation.

For the septicemic type, your healthcare team will support your organs, blood pressure, and oxygen supply while your body fights the infection.

Prevention    TOP

If exposed to plague, you’ll need to take antibiotics for 7 days. People who care for you will need to wear masks.

If there is a terrorist attack, medicines go to those who have signs of infection.

To help lower your chances of plague:

  • Control the number of rodents near your home, since they carry fleas.
  • Wear gloves when handling or skinning animals.
  • Use bug sprays with DEET.
  • Use flea control on your pets.
  • Keep dogs and cats from sleeping in your bed if they roam in places where the disease is common.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
https://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References:

Inglesby TV, Dennis DT, Henderson DA, et al. Plague as a biological weapon: medical and public health management. Working Group on Civilian Biodefense. JAMA. 2000;283(17):2281-2290.
Plague. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 3, 2015. Accessed May 15, 2018.
Plague. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116252/Plague. Updated September 8, 2015. Accessed May 15, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 5/15/2018

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.

Health Library: Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
36000 Darnall Loop Fort Hood, Texas 76544-4752 | Phone: (254) 288-8000