Bubonic Plague

Shealyn Kawlewski

Medical Advances

During the plague epidemic in 1347, the doctors who treated the plague were not professional doctors. They would wear long wax coats, probably to keep the fleas from sticking to them, and would wear beak shaped masks. The beak of the mask would be stuffed with herbs and spices to "purify" the air, back when they thought that the plague was an aerial disease.

Unlike 14th century England, the bubonic plague is now treatable by modern technology. Antibiotics such as streptomycin, gentamicin, doxycycline, or ciprofloxacin are used to treat the plague. A new vaccine, levaquin, was approved to treat the plague by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration six months ago.

A new study done by the Centers for Disease Control showed that the plague has been surfacing in New Mexico's two biggest cities over the past couple of years.

Immediate Risks

The bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium 'Yersinia pestis'. When you get the bubonic plague, your buboes, or lymph nodes, swell. Lymph nodes are located in the throat, armpits, and groin. You may get symptoms that include: fever, headache, nausea, weakness, flu-like symptoms, and inflamed lymph nodes. Plus, your skin breaks out in bruises and rashes, and you won't be able to stand anything touching your skin. Fevers of the bubonic plague can get up to over 104 degrees.

If treatment is not administered within the first 24 hours of diagnosis, the patient may die. Most bubonic plague treatment is started even before the lab results come back. The most common reason for getting the bubonic plague is coming in contact with an infected dead animal, whether through skinning it or being near the animal's home.

Media Influences

Book: The book Year of Wonder: A Novel of the Plague is a fictional book that portrays the plague in a dramatic manner. It's set in the "Plague Village" of Eyam nestled in the mountains in 17th century England. (Yes, the plague popped up again in England in the 1600s) It's told through the eyes of an eighteen-year old, complete with love, loss, and witch-hunting.

Movie: "Black Death" is dramatized movie with many well-known actors and relays the facts in a theatrical way. It's set during the first plague outbreak in England in the 1300s, where a monk is given the task to learn the truth about the villagers complaints about the plague. Follow along with Eddie Redmayne, David Warner, and Sean Bean in this mystery/adventure film.

Documentary: "The Plague" is a two-part documentary put on by the History Channel and explains the 14th century plague in depth. It lays down accurate facts including the year the plague broke out (1347), how many it killed (almost half of the population of England), and where it began (the Mongol empire).

Long Term Effects

The bubonic plague, when untreated, is fatal to 50-60% of cases. 14% of people diagnosed with the plague die. If the plague goes untreated, you may die, if you do get treatment, you may spend up to 10 days in a recovering hospital. Gangrene is sometimes caused by the plague. If left untreated, the bubonic plague may multiply in the bloodstream, causing septicemic plague, or even progress to the lungs, causing pneumonic plague. In some extreme cases, limbs or phalanges may need to be amputated.

Some U.S. citizens feel that the bubonic plague could someday be used as a bioterrorism agent against the U.S., so research has picked up in recent years to find a fast-acting medicine for the bubonic plague.

Interpersonal Communication

If you are worried that you or someone you know may have the bubonic plague, there are a few people you could talk to: go to the closest hospital to you IMMEDIATELY!! (Seriously, this thing can kill you) When you arrive there:

  • Relay your concern to the front desk of the emergency room (hopefully they'll get you in to see a doctor as soon a possible, which most likely will not be soon because you always wait like two hours in the waiting room)
  • Then tell your doctor the symptoms you've been experiencing (With the bubonic plague the symptoms may be: flu-like, swollen lymph nodes, fever, etc.)

The doctor will probably send you to a specialist in infectious diseases who could take a closer look at your symptoms. There aren't too many other people you could go to, as doctors and specialists in diseases are the only people certified to diagnose and treat the bubonic plague.

Local source

Hennepin County Medical Center Pediatrics

Jason V Baker MD

Infectious Disease Specialist, Internal

701 Park Ave. Ste. P7, Minneapolis, MN 55415


( http://www.lifescript.com/doctor-directory/infectious-disease-specialist/minneapolis-minnesota-mn-jason-v-baker-md.aspx )


Online: Nettleman, Mary D. "Plague (Black Death) History, Causes, Symptoms, Facts, Pictures, Treatment, Vaccine - MedicineNet." MedicineNet. MedicineNet, 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://www.medicinenet.com/plague/article.htm>

Yardley, Jonathan. "Fear, Prejudice and Denial were the Worst Enemies in the Battle Against Bubonic Plague on America's Shores." The Washington Post: 0. Mar 23 2003. ProQuest Newsstand; The Washington Post. Web. 3

Oct. 2012

Book: Brooks, Geraldine. "Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague." PaperBackSwap.com. PaperBack Swap, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. http://www.paperbackswap.com/Year-Wonders-Novel-Geraldine-Brooks/book/067091021X/


Mrs. Hinz Health Class, 5th hour