Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

The of the lymph nodes. Pneumonic plague

The plague is an illness that is singularly terrifying and fascinating in its effectiveness. It has varying strains and broad symptoms, many of which are similar to the flu, allowing it to often go undetected. Since it still exists today, it is an important illness to understand. Knowing how it works, how it’s transmitted, it’s basic symptoms, and how to properly treat it are all important in preventing another one of it’s infamous outbreaks.The mutant bacteria behind the infamous plague is known as Yersinia Pestis. On it’s own it is not powerful and can’t survive outside a host. But once the bacteria enters a host victim, it immediately begins to break down the victim’s immune system in order to survive. By injecting toxins into defense cells, it clears the way to multiply unhindered within the host (National). Depending on the method of transmission, there are three different forms of plague. Bubonic plague, which is the most common form of plague, is an infection of the lymph nodes. Pneumonic plague is a lung-based plague and is the second most common form. Septicemic plague is the least common form and is an infection of the blood (Vyas).All types of plague can be transmitted by animals, most commonly rodent and their fleas. Mice, camels, chipmunks, prairie dogs, rabbits, and squirrels are other common carriers of the plague (National). Since animals can be infected, both by fleas or by eating other infected animals, outbreaks among animals are common, These outbreaks, called epizootics, often lead to increased plague rates in humans (Szalay). All types of plague can also be transmitted by contact with infectious bodily fluids, though human to human transmission of bubonic plague is rare (WHO). Pneumonic plague, however, is the only form of plague commonly spread person to person (Szalay). Pneumonic plague affects the lungs, and when infected humans or animals cough, the bacteria becomes airborne, infecting anyone who breathes it in. Septicemic plague occurs when the bacteria enters directly in the bloodstream from either fleas or contact with plague-infected body matter (National). Both pneumonic and septicemic plague can also result from untreated, advanced bubonic plague. Once a victim becomes infected, there is usually a 2-8 day incubation period before symptoms begin to appear, though symptoms can appear in as little as one day for pneumonic plague (Vyas). While each form of plague affects victims in its own way, all three types begin with the same basic flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, vomiting, nausea, and weakness (Szalay). The bubonic plague’s most notable symptom would be the painfully swollen, pus-filled lymph nodes called buboes, which can turn into festering open sores at advanced stages of infection (National, WHO). Since the pneumonic plague primarily affects the lungs, the majority of its symptoms affect the respiratory system. These symptoms can include a severe cough, difficulty breathing, chest pain, watery or bloody mucus, serious pneumonia, shock, or respiratory failure (Vyas, Szalay). The septicemic plague causes the most serious symptoms of the three types. It can cause severe bleeding due to blood clotting problems, both internally and externally. Internal bleeding then can cause skin and tissues to turn black and die; this necrosis is most common on the nose, fingers, and toes (Szalay). It is important to note that septicemic plague can cause death before severe symptoms even appear (National).There are multiple ways to test for plague once symptoms appear or after exposure, these tests include blood cultures, sputum cultures, or cultures of the lymph node. Once tests are taken, treatment should begin immediately. Antibiotics are effective in fighting the plague, and are often used in conjunction with intravenous fluids and respiratory support for patients. Once there is confirmation that a patient has the plague, they are kept from others, including doctors, nurses, and caregivers. Antibiotics can also be used as a preventative measure for anyone in close contact with the patient. In patients with the bubonic plague, 50% die without treatment, but if proper treatment is started early, chances of survival are high. In patients with septicemic or pneumonic plague, treatment must begin immediately. Without treatment patients die quickly, though treatment can increase the chance of survival to 50% (Vyas). All victims have the best chance of survival if treatment begins within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms (WHO).The plague can be deadly, but today is definitely a manageable illness. It’s many types can all be kept at bay with proper sanitation and pest control. The symptoms can be recognized by a professional, and the outlook is good when treatment is administered in time. Once having the potential for wiping out nations, it is now treatable with common antibiotics. Yet, as it still exists today, it is still important to stay informed and be aware of the capabilities of the plague. Works CitedHistory.com Staff. “Black Death.” History.com, A&E television Networks, 2010, National Geographic. “Plague Information and Facts.”  Plague Information and Facts, 18 Jan. 2017, Szalay, Jessie. “Plague: A Scourge From Ancient to Modern Times.”  Live Science, Purch, 1 July 2016, Vyas, Jatin M. “Plague.” MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, 18 May 2017, WHO. “Plague.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, Oct. 2017,


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