Plague, also called Black Death, is caused by the Yersinia Pestis, a bacterium. These bacteria are found in rats or rodents and the fleas that feed on them. It is from the flea bites or rodent bites that humans and other animals can get the plague.
In the 1300s entire civilizations got destroyed by this disease. However, in today’s age with better sanitation, availability of antibiotics and better living conditions, numbers of Plague cases have been reduced to dramatically.
What is the cause of the plague?
Plague is of three forms mainly Septicemic Plague, Bubonic Plague, And Pneumonic Plague.
In the case of the Bubonic Plague, the lymph system gets infected by the bacteria and gets inflamed. The bacteria pass from the infected rodent or flea and in rare cases from contaminated material or clothing of a plague-infected person. Symptoms of Bubonic Plague include tender and swollen lymph glands, weakness, chills, and headaches. The disease spreads rarely from one person to another.
How did the plague spread?
Septicemic Plague occurs when the bacteria multiply in the blood. The bacteria spread through the bite of rodents and fleas or if Pneumonic or Bubonic plague remains untreated. The disease spreads rarely from one person to another. Symptoms of Septicemic Plague include bleeding below the skin and other organs, fever, shock, chills, pain in the abdomen and weakness.
Pneumonic Plague is a contagious disease caused by inhaling the Y. Pestis bacteria from an infected animal or human and is a form of serious plague. It causes pneumonia and infects the lungs. If Septicemic or Bubonic Plague remains untreated then it could spread to the lungs causing Pneumonic Plague. Symptoms include watery or bloody sputum at times, shortness of breath, cough and pain in the chest. Weakness, fever, and headache are the other symptoms of Pneumonic Plague.
Diagnosis is done with the help of laboratory tests on fluid taken from the lymph node and tests on sputum or blood.
Antibiotics like Gentamycin or streptomycin, besides other antibiotics, are advised generally by the health care provider. Treatment has to be given at the earliest or bacteria could multiply in the bloodstream in the case of Bubonic Plague and could progress to the lungs causing Pneumonic Plague. Effective vaccines against plague are not yet available commercially. Research for diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines for this disease is still on.