The Black Death is commonly known as the plague. It has three forms: bubonic plague, pneumonic plague and septicemic plague. The plague had its beginnings in the 14th century and has killed millions of people. It remains a threat in some parts of the world today. According to Mayo Clinic, antibiotics can now successfully treat most cases of plague. Some agencies relate concerns that plague could be used as a weapon by terrorists.
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Bubonic Plague Symptoms
Bubonic plague is the most common type of Black Death. It occurs when a flea infected with plague bacteria bites the victim. The main symptom is swollen lymph nodes, called buboes, which grow to 0.4 to 3.9 inches in diameter. These are found in the neck, armpit or groin and are usually warm and painful. The stricken lymph nodes are near the flea bite. Other symptoms include fever, chills, giddiness, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, intolerance to light, confusion, diarrhea, excessive tiredness and pain in the arms, legs and back. Symptoms occur two to eight days after transmission.
Pneumonic Plague Symptoms
Pneumonic (meaning lung) plague is considered more dangerous than bubonic plague. Its symptoms include difficulty breathing, severe cough, nausea, vomiting, weakness, fluid in the lungs, high fever and spitting up or coughing up frothy blood. People contract it by breathing air contaminated by the cough of a person or animal infected with pneumonic plague bacteria. Both bubonic plague and septicemic plague can worsen into pneumonic plague; and a person with bubonic plague can cough and infect his own lungs, then develop pneumonic plague as well. The incubation period for pneumonic plague is around two days.
Septicemic Plague Symptoms
Septicemic plague occurs when the blood becomes infected by the plague-causing bacteria. This is theorized to happen when an infected flea or animal bites the victim close to a blood vessel and the bacteria spreads first through the bloodstream instead of multiplying in a lymph node. Septicemic plague can also occur when bubonic plague is untreated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria overwhelm the immune system and begin to multiply in the bloodstream, spreading throughout the body. Signs of septicemic plague include low blood pressure, organ failure, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, shock, fever and shock. The Mayo Clinic says bleeding from under the skin or from the nose, mouth or rectum can occur. Also, gangrene can strike the nose, fingers or toes, creating black, dead and possibly foul-smelling skin and tissue. The incubation period of septicemic plague ranges from one to six days.