Plague is an infection. Governments have studied the bacteria's use as a germ-warfare weapon. As a weapon, it would be released in the air. The types of plague are:
The plague is treated with isolation and antibiotics.
Plague is caused by specific bacteria.
Bubonic and septicemic plagues are spread by bites from infected fleas. Transmission can also occur when a person comes in contact with infected tissue or body fluids from another person or animal.
Pneumonic plague is spread by droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The disease is transmitted to another person when the droplets are inhaled. Transmission by droplets is the only way pneumonic plague spreads among people.
Factors that may increase your chance of getting plague include:
You can get information about where the plague is common from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Symptoms of pneumonic plague include:
Symptoms of bubonic plague:
Symptoms of septicemic plague:
Complications of plague include shock, organ failure, and death.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may ask about the possible source of exposure.
Test may include:
Starting antibiotics early is essential. Any delay greatly increases the risk of death. The drugs are injected in a muscle or given through a vein. Later in treatment, some drugs can be given by mouth. A patient with lung symptoms will be placed in isolation to protect others. Caregivers and visitors should wear a mask, gloves, goggles, and a gown. Cases are reported to public health officials.
Antibiotics may prevent infection following close contact with someone who has the disease. The drugs should be taken daily while in contact, and for seven days after the last exposure. In addition, the caregiver and patient should wear masks.
In the event of a terrorism exposure, antibiotics may be given to patients in the areas with fever or cough. A vaccine does not exist for pneumonic plague.
Measures to prevent naturally occurring plague include:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Johns Hopkins' Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR)
Public Health Agency of Canada
Consensus statement, plague as a biological weapon: Medical and public health management. JAMA. 2000;283(17):2281-2290.
Plague. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/plague. Updated November 28, 2012. Accessed May 24, 2013.
Plague. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated May 1, 2013. Accessed May 24, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.