The Bubonic Plague

What is the history of the Bubonic Plague? - The plague has 3 forms, which are the bubonic plague (which infects the lymph glands), the septicemia plague (which infects the blood) and the pneumonic plague (which infects the lungs). When the bubonic plague is mentioned, most people associate it with the notorious Black Death which Europe suffered in the 14th Century where almost a third of the population were wiped out (1.5 of 4 million). There was no medical knowledge of how to deal with the outbreak at the time (thankfully now we are a lot more advanced). The bubonic plague is an ancient disease (much further back than the Black Death) that still occurs today in several areas around the globe. Places such as South Asia, Russia, Southern Eastern Africa, China and even parts of the USA report cases each year. The bubonic plague is a bacterial disease found mostly in rats that can be spread to other animals and humans by infected fleas, which have fed off the rats. It is also a disease that was reportedly used in warfare by the Japanese army (dropping infected fleas on an area to bite and cause an epidemic).

Bubonic Plague Facts - The magnitude of the Black Death bubonic plague could have been due to the amount of rats that occupied the towns and cities at that time. As the rats carried the disease, in order to pass it to a human they would have had to either bite them or perhaps pass it on through infectious air. Other bubonic plague causes were fleas. Fleas were able to carry the disease from host to host (rats to humans, mice, squirrels, etc) by biting and injecting their saliva and this is the more likely way the bubonic plague spread. Humans would have then passed pneumonic plague between each other by coughing and infectious air. The disease was known to kill victims within in three days in most cases, showing how deadly the Black Death was. Humans would develop black spots/lumps (buboes) around the body (more commonly the armpits, groin and neck) as well as fevers, chills, fatigue and headaches as a result of catching the bubonic plague.

bubonic black plague rat flea

Bubonic Plague Treatment - There are now vaccinations for those who travel to, or work in, areas of the world where the disease occurs. Several types of antibiotic can also be administered as a treatment; however it would all depend on how early the bubonic plague was diagnosed. Those who do contract the disease need to be isolated in hospital and instantly treated. Specimens would also need to be taken and recorded for global statistics. This way, bodies such as the world health organization could monitor any patterns and look for ways of preventing the spread of bubonic plague in those areas.

Bubonic Black Plague

Bubonic Plague Symptoms - Similar symptoms of the bubonic plague could occur today and treatment would need to be swift and controlled. If a human is infected through bites from fleas then the disease would travel through the blood to the lymph nodes (creating lymph gland swelling). The blood and lungs can become infected if untreated it could develop into septicemia and pneumonic plague. As the latter can easily be spread between humans (coughing), it would be considered a public health emergency if people were to show signs. They would need to be placed in a controlled environment away from other people whilst receiving immediate treatment for any hope of recovery. People could contract the bubonic plague through several ways - bites of infected fleas, direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected animal, by inhaling infectious air of animals with the disease or by occupational risk (working directly with the bubonic plague in laboratories or other controlled environments). However, in the USA, squirrel fleas are associated with being the largest source of bubonic plague infection.

The Black Death Bubonic plague

Bubonic Plague Cure - The disease can be (and has been) prevented through many techniques. As it is mainly carried by rodents, the extermination and control of rats within cities and towns is necessary. The fleas that live off infected rats also need to be targeted and killed. Areas of the world where the plague occurs need to have their communities educated so they can be aware of the signs and symptoms and they can look into ways of preventing contracting the disease. As mentioned earlier, the use of antibiotics and vaccinations are a good preventative tool for humans, as are strong insect repellents (such as Deet). General good sanitization, the use of insecticides and treatments on pets will all help prevent flea bites. In areas where the plague is recorded, foods (in any form) should not be left for rodents to potentially feed on. Areas of shelter should not be left abandoned for rats to live in. People should avoid dead or sick animals as they may be infected with the bubonic plague (and their fleas will be looking for new hosts to feed on).

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