- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
A Plague More Dangerous Than Bubonic Plague
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.