The Bubonic Plague
Bubonic plague is a disease that is caused by a bacterial infection. It affects the lymphatic system of the body, and it can be fatal if it is not treated promptly. Bubonic plague is best remembered as the disease of “The Black Death” , which was the epidemic that took the lives of millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Bubonic plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersina pestis. Usually, it is not transmitted through human contact. It mostly occurs after a person is bitten by an infected flea. The fleas that carry the bacteria attach themselves to rodents and mice, and when their hosts pass away, they will look for other prey. As they move from one host to another, they may find people to attach to. When the infected fleas get on a person’s skin, the bacteria will make their way to the lymph nodes and cause damage to the lymphatic system. If the bacteria spread to the lungs, a disease called pneumonic plague may develop. Pneumonic plague can be transmitted from person to person, specifically through coughing and sneezing. This was the main reason why the disease spread so rapidly during “The Black Death”.
The hallmark of the bubonic plague is buboes , which are swollen lymph nodes that usually occur in the armpits, neck, or groin. Other symptoms of the disease include high fever, headache, heavy breathing, vomiting of blood, and hemorrhages that cause the skin to turn black . Bubonic plague is the initial stage of the development of the disease. After the afflicted person starts to suffer from pneumonia or blood-poisoning, the plague may become pneumonic or septicemic . If the person is not given treatment, he may be killed by the disease in 4 to 7 days.
The bubonic plague was once the most feared infectious disease in the world. Throughout history, it had taken the lives of almost 200 million people. Most of these people died during one of the 3 major outbreaks of the disease. The first outbreak occurred between the 5th and 6th centuries in a region that stretched from the Mediterranean basin to the Middle East, and it killed about 50% of the total number of people living in the area. The second outbreak, “The Black Death” , happened in Europe in the 14th century, taking the lives of approximately 40% of the people in the continent. This outbreak came to an end in the 17th century when the Great Plague of London was subdued. The last great outbreak began in China around 1855, and it spread to other parts of the world, killing millions of people. There was no cure for the bubonic plague during those times. People had no idea how the disease came about or what they should do about it, and medicinal science was not advanced enough to provide a cure for it.
Today, treatment for bubonic plague is available. Those who are diagnosed with the disease should seek treatment as soon as possible. The symptoms can be treated with antibiotics such as tetracycline and streptomycin. Vaccination is also available for those who are traveling to places in the world where public records show higher occurrence of the disease. Most developed countries and cities have taken the necessary measures to control the disease , and these include reducing the population of rats, getting rid of fleas with insecticide, and having pets treated for fleas.
Bubonic plague is still present in the world today. There are about 1000 to 3000 cases of the disease in different parts of the world every year, and these usually occur in places such as the Middle East, Russia, China, South Asia, South and East Africa, Madagascar, and Brazil. The US has 10 to 15 cases of bubonic plague every year.