Plague is a serious, epidemic disease caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, transmitted to humans from rats by means of the bites of fleas. Characterized by fever, headache, chills, malaise, prostration, & leukocytosis that manifests in one or more of the following clinical forms:
• Regional lymphadenitis (bubonic)
• Septicemia w/o evident bubo (septicemic)
• Plague pneumonia
• Pharyngitis & cervical lymphadenitis (pharyngeal)
Plague is divided into three types depending on which part of the body is affected which include bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.
In Bubonic plague symptoms appear suddenly, after 2 - 5 days of exposure to the Yersinia pestis. Symptoms include chills, fever, muscle pain, headache, general ill feeling, seizures.
Pneumonic plague symptoms appear suddenly, typically 2 - 3 days after exposure. The symptoms include cough, difficulty breathing, fever, blood sputum, severe cough, frothy, pain in the chest.
Septicemic plague might cause death even before its symptoms occur. Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever and diarrhea, bleeding due to blood clotting problems, vomiting, and nausea.
Treatment of plague requires prompt antibiotic treatment and supportive therapy. Antibiotics such as gentamicin, streptomycin, doxycycline, or ciprofloxacin are used to treat plague. Oxygen, intravenous fluids, and respiratory support are usually also needed. If treatment is not received within 24 hours of when the first symptoms occur, death can result.