What is plague?
Plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis.
Where are the bacteria found?
The bacteria are found in rodents. The disease is rare in the United States and is limited to the west and southwestern parts of the country.
How are the bacteria spread?
The most common means of spread from rodent to man is by the bite of an infected flea. Other important sources include the handling of tissues from infected animals (especially rabbits and rodents), airborne droplets from humans or household pets with plague pneumonia or by laboratory exposure.
Who gets the plague?
People working or visiting areas with infected rodents are at greater risk of acquiring this disease.
What are the symptoms of the plague?
The initial symptom is usually a swollen, inflamed and tender lymph gland in the body near where the infected flea bit the person. Fever is usually present. The disease may progress to a generalized blood infection that may result in pneumonia. People with pneumonic plague may transmit the disease to other people when coughing.
How soon do symptoms appear?
The symptoms generally appear 1 - 6 days after exposure.
What is the treatment for the plague?
Certain antibiotics such as streptomycin, gentamicin, tetracyclines and chloramphenicol are effective in treating the disease.
How can the plague be prevented?
The patient, clothing and baggage should be treated with an insecticide to kill all fleas that may be attached. When human or animal cases have been identified, efforts to control the rodent and flea populations by the use of rodenticides and insecticides should be used.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.
For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention website.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.