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Pandemics & Epidemics: A Topic & Resource Guide

Plagues: Bubonic, et. al

Image of Doctor Schnabel of Rome (Plague Doctor)

-Doctor Schnabel of Rome (Plague Doctor), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Doctor_Schnabel_of_Rome_(Plague_Doctor).png, Creative Commons Share Alike License, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

"Plague is a disease that affects humans and other mammals. It is caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Humans usually get plague after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with plague. Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death. Presently, human plague infections continue to occur in rural areas in the western United States, but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia." -- https://www.cdc.gov/plague/ 


Transmission and types:

  • Flea bites. Plague bacteria are most often transmitted by the bite of an infected flea. During plague epizootics, many rodents die, causing hungry fleas to seek other sources of blood. People and animals that visit places where rodents have recently died from plague are at risk of being infected from flea bites. Dogs and cats may also bring plague-infected fleas into the home. Flea bite exposure may result in primary bubonic plague or septicemic plague.
  • Contact with contaminated fluid or tissue. Humans can become infected when handling tissue or body fluids of a plague-infected animal. For example, a hunter skinning a rabbit or other infected animal without using proper precautions could become infected with plague bacteria. This form of exposure most commonly results in bubonic plague or septicemic plague.
  • Infectious droplets. When a person has plague pneumonia, they may cough droplets containing the plague bacteria into air. If these bacteria-containing droplets are breathed in by another person they can cause pneumonic plague. Typically this requires direct and close contact with the person with pneumonic plague. Transmission of these droplets is the only way that plague can spread between people. This type of spread has not been documented in the United States since 1924, but still occurs with some frequency in developing countries. Cats are particularly susceptible to plague, and can be infected by eating infected rodents...

---https://www.cdc.gov/plague/transmission/index.html

Historical & Cultural

Bubonic Plague -- Epidemiology