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Bubonic Plague

Bubonic Plague The Bubonic Plague has killed more people than any other plague. During the 1300’s, the Black Death, as they called it, killed nearly half the population of Europe. They called it the Black Death because of the dark color the people’s faces would turn after they died. It is caused by rod-shaped bacteria, Yersinia Pestis. The Bubonic Plague is an acute and severe infection.

It is carried by the fleas on infected rodents(rat, squirrel). If the rodent or flea bites a person then it can be passed from person to person from mucus droplets spread by coughing. When infected, the person becomes ill in a few hours to a few days. The bacteria spread throughout the body. The symptoms include swollen lymph nodes(buboes), damaged capillaries signified by bleeding under the skin and black splotches, high fever, aching limbs, vomiting blood, shivering and extreme pain, and swelling continues in lymph nodes on groins, armpits, and neck until they burst shortly before death.

Other forms of the plague are pneumonic, which causes severe pneumonia and septicemia. All forms of the plague are extremely dangerous and contagious. (2) The plague has been known for at least three-thousand years. Epidemics have been recorded in China since 224bc. The disease occurred in huge pandemics that destroyed the entire populations of cities throughout the Middle Ages; they have occurred sporadically since that time.

The last great pandemic began in China in 1894 and spread to Africa, the Pacific islands, Australia, and the Americas, reaching San Francisco in 1900. Plague still occurs in Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia, but rarely appears in the U.S. Two small, well-contained outbreaks occurred in India in 1994. In 1950 the World Health Organization initiated sanitation programs for plague control throughout the world. (1) Many preventive measures, such as sanitation, killing of rats, and prevention of the transport of rats in ships arriving from ports in which the disease is endemic, are effective in reducing the incidence of plague. Famine, which reduces resistance to the disease, results in spread of plague.

Individuals who have contracted the disease are isolated, put to bed, and fed fluids and easily digestible foods. Sedatives are used to reduce pain and to quiet delirium. During World War II, scientists using sulfa drugs were able to produce cures of plague; subsequently, streptomycin and tetracycline were found to be more effective in controlling the disease. (3).