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A Plague More Dangerous Than Bubonic Plague

Updated on June 9, 2012

Most people have heard of bubonic plague, the disease, that, in the 1300s, destroyed approximately one third of Europe's population. Bubonic plague was known as the black death, because hemorrhages under the skin gave the limbs a blackish appearance. The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, lives in vermin, and is transmitted by fleas. It spread, in Europe, due to the poor sanitary conditions, that were prevalent at the time, allowing vermin to flourish. It ran unchecked for years due to the primitive medical facilities available, and the impossibility of caring for the hundreds of thousands of ill and dying. Bubonic plague still exists today, even in the United States, but with prompt care, those afflicted need not die.

Pneumonic plague, on the hand is far more dangerous. It is considered to be one of the deadliest diseases, and is feared as a potential bioterrorist weapon. Pneumonic plague can occur as a secondary infection from bubonic plague, but can also be spread through the air, from person to person, or from infected objects, just the way cold germs can. Without prompt medical attention, victims of pneumonic plague will die within a matter of days. Even with medical attention, victims of pneumonic plague have only about a fifty percent chance of survival. Pneumonic plague is known as the red death because of the bleeding which is caused, as the lungs fill with bacteria and the victim struggles for breath, spitting up, not only watery phlegm, but also clots of blood.

The pneumonic plague bacteria thrive in the warm moist tissue of the lungs. When they are expelled into the air, they will infect anyone close by, who will in turn expel bacteria, and so the disease spreads.

Luckily, pneumonic plague is its own worst enemy. Because it kills so rapidly, it does not usually have a chance to spread to large areas of the population, and as long as victims of bubonic plague are treated promptly, secondary infections can be kept to a minimum.

One of the dangers of pneumonic plague is that in its initial stages, it seems like nothing more than a slight cold, accompanied by a headache. These symptoms will occur within a few days of exposure. They do not remain mild for long. The headache will become agonizing. Fever will occur and rise rapidly. Breathing will be labored and painful, and pneumonia will set in. Victims of pneumonic plague need to be given intravenous antibiotics and put on a respirator, as soon as possible after symptoms appear. Without prompt medical attention, death is inevitable.

There is no vaccine to prevent plague. Considering where it originates and how easily it is spread, it is wise to take all appropriate measures to keep your property rodent-free, and your animals flea-fee. It you are traveling in undeveloped areas take all possible precautions. Use insect repellents and avoid any areas there plague has been found or suspected. Antibiotics are often give to those bitten by fleas suspected of carrying disease. Discuss this with you family physician if you are concerned.

Never take your health for granted. If you have any concerns about your health, consult a medical professional immediately.

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    • billips profile imageAUTHOR

      billips 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Hi Amy - so sorry I took so long to get back to you - I didn't notice your comments - you are right about travel - it brings both good and bad - I hate even to contemplate that disease could be used as a weapon, but I'm sure it is being contemplated - thanks for commenting - B.

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR

      billips 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for your comments Tillsontitan - there are more diseases out there than we want to hear about, but then, knowledge is power - nice to hear from you - B.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      So much out there we are unaware of. Maybe we should pull in the streets and become hermits!

      Seriously, I'd never heard of pneumonic plague...that along with this new 'flesh eating bacteria' makes you wonder just how far we've come....

      Voted up and interesting.

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR

      billips 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Hi TToombso8 - thanks for reading and commenting - I know how you feel, but if we get over the icky aspect, knowledge does give us a degree of power - just not as much as I for one would like - regards, B.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      I am never leaving the house again. Ick. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Voted up and more.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      The problem today is rapid transit, especially on airplanes, notorious for recirculated air, for increasing the success of bioterrorism. Very scary and an important warning for life today. With treatment helping only 50%, in a scenario of this magnitude, hospitals would not be able to meet the challenge of millions of exposures. Travel today, hit with this form of bioterrorism, would result in an unprecedented, global, catastrophic event. I hope the world never sees it. Thank you for the info.

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR

      billips 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for commenting RedElf - you're right, some things seem impossible to eradicate - sanitation is an issue as is the lack of medical care, both difficult to deal with when funds are short - B.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Fascinating - there are several age-old killers that are still with us it seems. Just when we think we've put paid to one, it pops up somewhere else in an even more virulent form - kinda like antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis.

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR

      billips 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for commenting Kashmir - you are right - it pays to know 'just in case' - it alarms me to know that there are still cases appearing in the U.S. - pneumonic is particularly nasty because it can kill so fast - regards, B.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi billips, thanks for all this great and valuable information,hopefully we won't need to use it, but than again you never know .

      Vote up and more !!!

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR

      billips 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Hi MSorensson - nice to hear from you - thank you for reading and commenting - B.

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 

      6 years ago

      I am glad you wrote about it. Thanks

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR

      billips 

      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for your comments Teaches 12345 - I don't want to alarm anyone, but I do think the more knowledge we have the better equipped we are to deal with life - B.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for posting this information on the plauge. I have not seen this before and it is good to know about the symptoms. Voted up.

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