Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is spread by the bite of an infected flea. The infection spreads to immune glands called lymph nodes, causing them to become swollen and painful and may progress to open sores. Human-to-human transmission of bubonic plague is rare and it’s usually caught from animals.
If plague infects the lungs – either by the bubonic form progression through the body or by catching the infection from an infected patient or animal’s breath – it is called pneumonic plague.
Historically, plague was responsible for widespread pandemics with high mortality.
People infected with plague usually develop acute febrile disease with other non-specific systemic symptoms after an incubation period of one to seven days, such as sudden onset of fever, chills, head and body aches, and weakness, vomiting and nausea.
It was known as the ‘Black Death’ during the fourteenth century, causing more than 50 million deaths in Europe.
Nowadays, plague is easily treated with antibiotics and the use of standard precautions to prevent acquiring infection.
As an animal disease, plague is found in all continents, except Oceania. There is a risk of human plague wherever the presence of plague natural foci and human population co-exist.
Plague epidemics have occurred in Africa, Asia, and South America; but since the 1990s, most human cases have occurred in Africa.
The three most endemic countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Peru. In Madagascar, cases of bubonic plague are reported nearly every year, between September and April.
WHO does not recommend vaccination, except for high-risk groups (such as laboratory personnel who are constantly exposed to the risk of contamination, and health care workers).
Source: World Health Organization