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Bubonic Plague

Bubonic Plague

Bubonic plague is a bacterial infection, which can cause the death of millions of people in a very short span of time. One of the most devastating bacterial infection epidemics was the "Black Death".
Nilesh Parekh
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
For thousands of years, bacterial infection of various types has killed millions of people, and it is still one of the biggest medical problems faced by humans. Bubonic Plague is one of the deadliest bacterial infections that can cause death of millions of people. It is caused by the gram-negative bacillus called Yersinia pestis. This bacterium is responsible for bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic plague (the intensity and dreadful nature of the illness differs in these three illnesses).
Causes
As mentioned before, bacterial infection is the only cause of this disease. It is more important to know how it spreads all over. It infects animals as well as humans. Flies and airborne insects are the main cause of the spread of this disease. Flies live on dead and infected animals, such as squirrels, stray dogs, goats, rabbits, hares, coyotes, rodents, marmots, and rats. When these flies bite humans, they pass on the plague.
The other ways this disease spreads to animals or humans is through direct contact to any infected animal and through animal bites. It may also take the form of airborne disease (pneumonic plague), which makes it even deadlier than its other forms. As compared to its other forms (pneumonic and septicemic), this condition is less lethal, and does not spread from one person to other unless it converts into other type.
Symptoms
Symptoms start showing up after the incubation period of about 3 to 7 days. They include:
  • Very high fever with severe headache
  • Malaise
  • Tachycardia
  • Regional large lymph nodes (buboes) that are tender in touch and hot to feel are developed on the patient's body (specifically near the inguinal area, groin, axilla, and the area near the neck)
  • Inflammation of the area surrounding the buboes
  • Development of purpuric eruption
  • Medical complications, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and blood poisoning
Diagnosis
Symptoms such as high fever, development of buboes in inguinal area, severe headache, etc., are very helpful in preliminary diagnostic tests. Wright's or Wayson's Stain test also helps in diagnosis. It produces a safety-pin also known as bipolar effect, in the bacteria causing the disease. Direct Fluorescent Antibody (DFA), Giesma Stain and Gram Stain tests are two more tests which are used for diagnosing the infection. Gram Stain test is considered to be one of the most reliable tests.
Treatment
It is very important to start the treatment of this disease as soon as the symptoms are diagnosed and the disease is confirmed.

Once diagnosed, the doctor may choose the treatment based upon the patient's medical history and severity of the disease. In ancient times, when use of antibiotics was not known, the plague was cured by burning the buboes with a blood-hot iron rod, which was a barbaric method, but did save many lives.
In modern times, use of antibiotics has taken place of burning the buboes. Antibiotics are used to fight the bacteria, and rest of the treatment is carried out based on the symptoms. Vaccines are also available, and should be taken at least a week in advance in case of a sudden outbreak of plague, or if the person is supposed to travel to the plague-affected area.
Prevention
Animals and fleas play an important part in the spread of the disease. It is very important to control the population and infestation of animals, such as rats, rodents, squirrels, etc. People should keep a close watch on any unnatural behavior such as illness and deaths of animals as well as humans, in the area where the outbreak is possible. Keep the surrounding area clean. Insecticides should be used in places, which are breeding grounds for fleas.
If any animal or human being is suspected to be suffering from plague, that animal or person should be separated from the others until the treatment is completed. Clothes used by the infected person should be kept in closed bags, and should be washed in hot water.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.