Plague is a bacterial infection. It needs to be treated right away.
There are three types:
Certain bacteria cause plague. How it spreads depends on the type.
Spreading Pneumonic Plague
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Plague is most common in parts of Africa. It is rare but can be found in the southwestern and western U.S. and other parts of the world. Risk is highest for those who live in or travel to these places.
Other things that raise the risk are:
Symptoms of plague are:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, and health and travel history. A physical exam may be done. Tests may be done to find the bacteria. They may be:
Chest x-rays may be done to check for lung problems.
The goal is to treat the infection right away. This can be done with IV and oral antibiotics.
If the lungs are involved—oxygen and breathing support may be needed.
Treatment usually lasts about 10 to 14 days.
The risk of plague may be lowered by:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Alberta Health Services
Public Health Agency of Canada
Pechous RD, Sivaraman V, et al. Pneumonic plague: the darker side of yersinia pestis. Trends Microbiol. 2016;24(3):190-197.
Plague. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Accessed February 5, 2021.
Plague. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/plague. Accessed February 5, 2021.
Last reviewed September 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 2/5/2021