Communicable Diseases



  • Plague is a serious life-threatening infection.
  • It’s caused by animal bacteria usually living in some rodents (e.g. rats) and other small mammals; from which the infection is transmitted through fleas.
  • The plague bacteria is transmitted to humans through the bites of fleas that have previously fed on infected animals
  • If diagnosed early, plague can be safely treated through powerful antibiotics.
  • There are no vaccines for plague; but there are certain guidelines to be followed to prevent infection.

Plague is a serious bacterial infection that's transmitted primarily by fleas. Previously deemed to be one of the deadliest pandemic diseases, plagues caused millions of deaths in the past.

Other names:
 Great Mortality, Black Death, Black Plague

  1. Bubonic plague: is the most common variety of the disease. It's named after the swollen lymph nodes (buboes) but swell immediately after infection. If left untreated, they develop into open ulcers full of pus. Bubonic plague is rarely transmitted among humans.
  2. Pneumonic plague: is the most dangerous variety of plague. With an incubation period of only 24 hours, pneumonic plague can be transmitted from human to human through droplets. If not early detected and aptly treated, it can lead to death.

The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, is an animal bacteria transmitted to humans from some species of rodents (e.g. squirrels, prairie dogs, rats, etc), and some other small mammals, as well as the fleas feeding thereon.

Animal-to-human plague transmission occurs through:
  • Bites of the infected fleas;
  • Direct and unprotected contact with the infected tissue; or
  • Inhaling the droplets of an infected person.

Incubation period:
The incubation period of plague ranges from 1 - 7 days.

Risk factors:
  • Unprotected contact with infectious body tissue or contaminated tools;
  • Living in places inhabited by rodents and fleas;
  • Work at laboratories.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache and muscle aches
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Cough and bloody mucus
  • Difficulty breathing

When to see a doctor?
On the onset of any of the symptoms listed above, provided that you live in a place that was stricken by plague earlier.

  • Gangrene
  • Meningitis (rare)
  • Death

Plague is diagnosed by taking a sample from the patient, especially a blood sample or a sample from the swollen lymph nodes (buboes), and then testing it in the lab. As soon as diagnosed with plague, the patient must receive the appropriate treatment immediately.

Plague is treated easily by administering powerful antibodies to the patient, meanwhile following the precautions necessary for infection prevention.

  • Keep away from the dead body of an infected animal.
  • Avoid direct contact with the infected body fluids or tissue.
  • Wash your hands with water and soap, or apply an alcoholic hand sanitizer. 
  • Avoid contact with the stray, diseased or dead animals.
  • Keep away from the places inhabited by rodents.

  • Is there a vaccine for plague?
    • As of now, there is no such vaccine, but the development of a vaccine is underway. It is unlikely that a plague vaccine will be available soon, though.

Clinical Education General Department
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Last Update : 24 March 2020 08:37 AM
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