What is Bubonic Plague? Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
The black death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. The bubonic plague is a strain of Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the black death and other types of plague. It’s a zoonotic disease, which can be transmitted from animals to humans, and vice versa.
There are three types of bubonic plague: pneumonic, septicemic, and bubonic plague. Let’s take a closer look at the bubonic plague and its symptoms, causes, and treatment methods so you can better understand how to protect yourself from contracting it.
What is the Bubonic Plague?
The bubonic plague is an infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis. There are three types of plague: bubonic, which is when the bacteria infect the lymph nodes; pneumonic, which is when the bacteria infect the lungs; and septicemic, which is when the bacteria infect the bloodstream. The bubonic plague is believed to have caused the black death pandemic that killed off approximately 50% of Europe’s population during the 14th century.
The term “bubonic” comes from the Greek word “bubo,” which means “swollen gland.” When the plague bacteria infects a person, it travels through their lymph nodes, which are located all throughout the body. The lymph nodes are responsible for filtering out toxins that enter the body, so the bacteria can’t be contained in them for long.
Once the bacteria travels through the lymph nodes and into the bloodstream, it can cause all sorts of havoc. Fingers and toes swell, as do the tonsils and the area around the liver.
Symptoms of the Bubonic Plague
The sooner you recognize the bubonic plague’s symptoms, the sooner you can seek treatment. The most common symptoms of the bubonic plague are:
- Swollen lymph nodes that feel like they’re filled with fluid
- The lymph nodes may be in your armpits, groin, neck, or head
- Headaches and body aches
- A bubo is a hard, swollen, red lump near the site of infection
- Extreme fatigue
- Fever and chills
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Reddish blotches on your skin
- Seizures, delirium, and coma
- If you don’t seek treatment for bubonic plague, you may develop septicemic plague or pneumonic plague.
- Septicemic plague is when the bacteria spread to your bloodstream and cause death within 12 hours.
- Pneumonic plague is when bacteria travel to your lungs and can easily transmit to others.
Causes of the Bubonic Plague
The bubonic plague is a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Humans can also transmit the bubonic plague to animals. The bubonic plague is typically transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas. The bacteria can also be transmitted when people come in contact with the tissues or fluids of infected people.
If an infected person coughs in your direction, you could be at risk of contracting the plague. The bubonic plague is particularly dangerous because it can be transmitted to humans by insect bites, direct contact with bacteria, or through the bodily fluids of infected individuals. Plague outbreaks are most common in areas with large rodent populations.
How is the Bubonic Plague Diagnosed?
If you experience the symptoms of the bubonic plague, you may see your doctor. Your doctor will take a sample of your blood and send it to a lab for testing. The sample will be tested for the presence of plague bacteria and antibodies.
If the tests return positive, you’ve contracted the bubonic plague. You may also be asked to provide a detailed medical history and list any recent travel destinations. You may be asked to provide a list of everyone you’ve contacted recently. Your doctor may need to quarantine you to prevent you from infecting other people.
Treatments for the Bubonic Plague
The bubonic plague can be fatal if left untreated. If you think you have the bubonic plague, seek immediate medical attention. Plague outbreaks are often treated with antibiotics. The sooner you start treatment, the better your chances of survival.
If you’ve been exposed to the bubonic plague, you’ll likely be quarantined. In most cases, you’ll receive antibiotics and be monitored to see if the bubonic plague develops. If it does, you’ll be treated with antibiotics.
Protecting Yourself from the Bubonic Plague
If you’re traveling to an area where the bubonic plague is common, you can take steps to protect yourself from contracting it. Wear insect repellent and long sleeves, pants, and shoes when outdoors. Wear gloves when cleaning out rodents or insect nests. Make sure any food you eat is properly cooked.
If a flea bites you, wash the area with soap and water. Seek medical attention if the bubonic plague develops. If a plague outbreak occurs near where you live, staying indoors is important. Close all doors and windows and seal any holes that could allow insects to get inside. Don’t handle any items that rodents or insects could have contaminated.
The bubonic plague is a dangerous disease that can quickly take hold of a community. It’s important to take precautions to protect yourself from the bubonic plague. These precautions include wearing insect repellent, avoiding areas where outbreaks occur, and not handling items that may have been contaminated. If you think you’ve been infected, don’t wait to seek medical attention.