Septicemic plague is a rare form of plague that enters the bloodstream of humans via bites received from fleas infected by the disease. The fleas in turn get the infection from rodents or even cats. Let’s find out more….
The minute we hear the word plague, we think of infected rodents scurrying across the city ready to bite people and spread the infection around! This is slightly on the dramatic side, however, the fact is that plague is a deadly disease transmitted from rodents like rats, prairie dogs, squirrels, etc. to humans via fleas. Fleas carrying infection from rodents and bite into the human, thereby transferring the disease to the human. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that over 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague are reported every year. There are different kinds of plagues that can affect both humans and animals such as pneumonic plague, septicemic plague and bubonic plague.
Septicemic Plague Facts
Septicemic plague is a rare but grave bacterial infection caused by a negative gram bacterium called Yersinia pestis. When this bacterium enters the bloodstream via an open wound in the body, the person is known to be infected by plague. The bacterium multiplies in the blood and results in septicemic plague. This form of plague like the other types is capable of causing disseminated intravascular coagulation, which is a blood clotting mechanism leading to formation of small clots in the blood vessels of the body.
The bacterial endotoxins released in the blood cause blood coagulation, which in turn conduces to abnormal bleeding in the skin and also disruption of normal blood flow to various vital organs. This condition can be fatal. Moreover, bleeding into the skin results in eruption of red or black patchy rashes on the skin. It also leads to vomiting and coughing of blood. This plague rarely spreads from person to person, however, it may be transmissible if the condition reaches the pneumonic stage. This form of plague can also be a complication developed after the person has been affected by bubonic or pneumonic plague.
- Severe headache
- Rapid heart rate
- Abdominal pain
- Bleeding into the skin
- Red or Black rash on skin
- Blackening and decaying of extremities
The progression of this infection in the body is rapid. The time period between onset of the first symptom and severe cases of plague is very short. In some cases, people have died on the same day the first symptoms began appearing.
To diagnose a case of septicemic plague, the doctor will go through the regular procedure of asking the medical history and carrying out a physical examination. The doctor will thoroughly check the patient’s skin and will listen carefully to the lungs. This is done to check for signs of plague. However, the doctor poses the challenge of ruling out other medical conditions with similar symptoms such as lymphogranuloma venereum, shigellosis, syphilis, hernia, cat scratch fever, typhoid fever or appendicitis. Once these conditions are ruled out, the diagnosis about being infected with plague will be made.
Since the septicemic plague is fatal, treatment needs to be carried out as soon as possible. As soon as the diagnosis is made, the patient is hospitalized and quarantined. The doctor does not wait for the laboratory tests to begin treatment. He starts treating the patient with antibiotics and also gives supportive care, which involves treating the symptoms arising and preventing the condition from worsening. Immediate treatment reduces the mortality rate from 4-15%. However, people suffering from septicemic plague often lose their lives on the same day the symptoms first emerge.
Septicemic plague is a condition if left untreated can lead to irreversible damage and even death in a days time. It can also occur as a complication of bubonic plague, so quick treatment is a must to save the life of the person infected with this deadly disease.