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Plague : Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Type and Treatment

Tuesday, July 24th 2012. | Disease

Plague Definition

Plague is an infectious disease, acute and highly contagious, have severe problems (symptoms). The cause of the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis, transmitted to humans by rodents.

Previously, this disease engendered pandemics and affected much of the world’s population. The last major pandemic occurred in the 14th century. At that time there was talk then of” Black Death” for the disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, although it is believed today that other causes (eg, anthrax) have probably also been described under that name.

Today, there are still outbreaks of plague in some countries in Africa, southeast Asia and South America and North. In Europe, there is now no cases of plague.

There is a vaccine against a form of plague. But it only works a few months and is little used because of its many side effects. For other forms, there is no vaccination. In these cases, the only means to protect themselves from infection are hygienic measures and isolation (quarantine) of infected people.

Antibiotics are highly effective against the plague if administered early enough, and not at an advanced stage of disease. If left untreated, plague is fatal.

To avoid an epidemic, the plague-infected person has the obligation to register in order to be quarantined and is then transferred to a specialized department for infections.


Hand necrosis casued by plague (img : wikipedia.org)

Plague Causes

Yersinia pestis is transmitted to humans by marmots, fleas, rats or squirrels infected. People working in the woods are particularly at risk.

There are four types of plague:

  • Bubonic plague
  • Septicemic plague
  • Pneumonic plague
  • Abortive plague

Pandemic, the four forms are present, but the bubonic and pneumonic majority.

Bubonic plague

Contamination occurs mostly through the bite of a chip rats. In the case of bubonic plague, are typical signs of inflammation (hump-shaped) about 4 cm in the neck, armpits and groin. They are due to infection of the lymph nodes and lymph vessels. If the disease is not treated, the bacteria spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, causing septicemic plague and a damage in other organs (lungs, skin). In most cases, a bubonic plague is left untreated is fatal.

Septicemic plague

It occurs when the bacterium is found in the blood. This is possible by two means: if there is a superficial wound or when a complication of bubonic plague (lymphatic inflammation burst blood). If not supported, the patient dies within hours.

Pneumonic plague

There are two forms: pneumonic plague primary and secondary.
The primary form is transmitted from human to human through the air (postilion, saliva, sneezing). The bacterium is then brought directly into the lungs. The evolution of the disease is much more rapid and violent that during a bubonic plague. If left untreated, the patient died within days of pulmonary edema or damage the cardiovascular system.
The secondary form is a complication of bubonic or septicemic.

Abortive plague

Abortive plague is harmless form of the plague. She appears as a slight fever and some minor inflammation of the lymph nodes. The patient develops antibodies in a few days and is thus immune against this form of plague.

Plague Symptoms

The incubation period (time from infection to onset of the disease) is a few hours to several days (maximum one week).

Plague Symptoms

  • Disorders similar to the flu : fever, pain in the head and limbs, strong feeling of malaise, loss of consciousness, stupor see
  • In addition during the bubonic plague : inflammation (bumps) typical pain in the neck, armpits and / or groin, these bumps are about 4 cm from the infection of the lymph nodes and lymph vessels, because of internal bleeding they take a black or blue, then disappear.
  • In addition during the septicemic plague : severe bleeding of internal organs and skin (black or blue), and more, this can lead to gangrene of skin tissue death, first the face and extremities (fingers and toes), then the center of the body.
  • In addition during pneumonic plague : difficulty breathing, coughing, cyanosis (blue lips), severe pain when coughing, coughing up black (blood).

Plague Diagnosis

  • Medical history taking into account the complaints and disorders (inflammation, sputum) current
  • Demonstration of the bacteria in the blood or saliva test (easy) The antibodies appear about the 10th day of illness

Plague Treatment Options

If the patient is treated early with antibiotics, his recovery is virtually assured. If not treated, it has against the risk of dying.

possible complications

In cases of bubonic plague and lung, the main danger is the spread by the blood of the bacteria throughout the body. It follows a septicemic plague and / or secondary pneumonic plague.

In the case of septicemic plague, the patient should be treated with antibiotics within 36 hours, otherwise it will die. In the case of pneumonic plague, a patient is not treated will develop pulmonary edema and death from cardiovascular disorders.


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