Health

Bubonic plague

15-Bubonic-plagueBubonic plague is one of three types of bacterial infection caused by Yersinia pestis. Three to seven days after exposure to the bacteria flu like symptoms develop. This includes fever, headaches, and vomiting. Swollen and painful lymph nodes occur in the area closest to where the bacteria entered the skin. Occasionally the swollen lymph nodes may break open.

The three types of plague are the result of the route of infection: bubonic plague, septicemic plague, and pneumonic plague. Bubonic plague is mainly spread by infected fleas from small animals. It may also result from exposure to the body fluids from a dead plague infected animal. In the bubonic form of plague, the bacteria enter through the skin through a flea bite and travels via the lymphatics to a lymph node, causing it to swell. Diagnosis is by finding the bacterium in the blood, sputum, or fluid from a lymph nodes.

Prevention is through public health measures such as not handling dead animals in areas where plague is common. Vaccines have not been found to be very useful for plague prevention. Several antibiotics are effective for treatment including streptomycin, gentamicin, or doxycycline. Without treatment it results in the death of 30% to 90% of those infected. Death if it occurs is typically within ten days. With treatment the risk of death is around 10%. Globally in 2013 there was about 750 documented cases which resulted in 126 deaths. The disease is most common in Africa.

Plague is believed to be the cause of the Black Death that swept through Asia, Europe, and Africa in the 14th century and killed an estimated 50 million people This was about 25% to 60% of the European population. Because the plague killed so many of the working population, wages rose due to the demand for labor. Some historians see this as a turning point in European economic development. The term bubonic plague is derived from the Greek word βουβών, meaning “groin”.

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