Plague is a rare bacterial infection causing multiple complications of organs like pneumonia, blood infection and swollen glands. Bacteria by name Yersinia pestis causes plague which is transmitted to humans through rodents and fleas. It was during the 14th century plague disease killed millions of people around the world, called as “black death”. Of late, in 1900 there was a plague outbreak in San Francisco. There were few cases of plague reported in the Western United States each year.
Severe form of plague disease can affect any part of your body like lymph nodes, lungs and even your blood. Symptoms of plague vary according to the part of body affected. Bubonic plague is one in which the lymph nodes of neck and armpit are affected. Buboes is the name given to lymph nodes and it can cause symptoms like swollen lymph nodes on your neck and armpit. The area becomes tender and warm and the size of nodes can be roughly the size of an egg. It can also cause fever, chills, fatigue and muscle pain.
Septicemic plague infects your blood which can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, bleeding from nose or rectum and blackening of skin tissue in extremities (fingers and toes) indicating death of tissue. Pneumonic plague is the one that affects your lungs. It is the most severe form of plague that can spread from humans to humans through droplets of air. It can cause signs like shortness of breath, persistent cough, fever, weakness, nausea and vomiting. As the infection progresses, it can cause shock and respiratory failure which can be fatal.
Yersinia pestis is the bacterium that causes plague. Rats and other rodents are infected by bacteria which are then transmitted to humans through fleas that feed on infected rodents. Fleas carry the bacteria which can enter your body through cut or injury in the skin. It can also infect human when he touches the blood of infected animal. Pneumonic plague can easily spread through air via fine droplets of cough.
Risk Factors :
- Plague is a very rare disease and chance of getting infected is low. In each year, only few hundreds of people develop plague.
- People who frequently travel to rural areas of Africa where there is poor sanitation and plenty of rodents.
- Doctors and helpers who handle the infected animals can get transmitted through infected blood of the animals.
- In rare cases, if you are bitten by plague infected rats and cat you can get infected.
- Plague in severe form can cause gangrene (tissue death), meningitis (brain fever) and death.
Plague can be detected by physical examination of lymph nodes. If you have doubt, your doctor would take a fluid sample from the lymph nodes and test it in the lab for the presence of bacteria. Blood test can be done if blood infection is suspected.
Plague can be treated by powerful antibiotics like gentamicin or ciprofloxacin. You need to complete the course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor, even if there is improvement of symptoms.
You can prevent plague by preventing rodents into your home. Keep the house warm and clean and remove unwanted junk regularly. If you have pets check with your vet about flea control products.