Tori O'Neal

What is the plague and what causes it?

  • Plague is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Yersinia pestis. These bacteria are found mainly in rodents, particularly rats, and in the fleas that feed on them. Other animals and humans usually contract the bacteria from rodent or flea bites.

What is the relative frequency of the disease?

  • The plague is very rare in the United States. The plague mainly occurs in the Southwest.

How is the diagnosis made?

  • Diagnosis is made by taking samples from the patient, especially blood or part of a swollen lymph gland, and submitting them for laboratory testing. Once plague has been identified as a possible cause of the illness, appropriate treatment should begin immediately

How the disease is transmitted?

  • Plague bacteria are most often transmitted by the bite of an infected flea or any rodent.

Disease course

  • The bacteria can spread through the bloodstream causing septicemia or it can infect the lungs, causing a secondary case of pneumonic plague. Nausea and vomiting may also occur. With treatment the plague can last for 3-10 days. Without treamtment a person can die in 24 hours.

Possible complications

  • Death. Most people who receive prompt antibiotic treatment survive bubonic plague. Untreated plague has a high fatality rate.

  • Gangrene. Blood clots in the tiny blood vessels of your fingers and toes can disrupt the flow of blood and cause that tissue to die. The portions of your fingers and toes that have died may need to be amputated.

  • Meningitis. Rarely, plague may cause an inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord (meningitis).

Target Audience

  • Hunters and trappers have a greater chance of catching plague, Living in the Southwest and having a house dog or cat can also put people at risk.


you'll need to be admitted to an isolation room in a hospital. There, you'll receive powerful antibiotics, such as:

  • Gentamicin
  • Doxycycline (Vibramycin)
  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)