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Bubonic Plague

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    23rd Feb, 2024


In a recent incident, health officials in Oregon, US confirmed the first case of bubonic plague in the state since 2005.

What is the bubonic plague?

  • Bubonic plague specifically refers to cases where bacteria gets into the lymph nodes.
  • Caused by: Yersinia pestis, a zoonotic bacteria, i.e. bacteria that can spread between animals and people. Y pestisis usually found in small animals and their fleas.

Between 1346 and 1353, the bubonic plague killed as many as 50 million in Europe in what is known as the Black Death.

  • Transmission: Humans can be infected in one of three ways —
    • the bite of infected vector fleas
    • unprotected contact with infectious bodily fluids or contaminated materials
    • inhalation of respiratory droplets/small particles from a patient with pneumonic plague
  • Symptoms: It can cause fever, headache, weakness and painful, swollen lymph nodes, and usually happens from the bite of an infected flea.

Other Types of Plague

Septicemic plague

Pneumonic plague

  • Septicemic plague happens if the bacteria enters the bloodstream.
  • This often follows untreated bubonic plague, and causes additional, more serious symptoms.
  • These include abdominal pain, shock, bleeding into the skin, and blackening of appendages, most often fingers, toes or the nose.
  • Source: This form comes either from flea bites or from handling an infected animal.
  • It happens when the bacteria enters the lungs, and adds rapidly developing pneumonia to the list of symptoms.
  • It is the only form of plague that can be spread from person to person by inhaling infectious droplets — also making it the most contagious.
  • Pneumonic plague is the most dangerous, and according to the WHO, “almost always fatal” if untreated.



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