Table of contents:
- Main symptoms
- How to confirm the diagnosis
- Transmission of the bubonic plague
- How to avoid catching the Plague
- How the treatment is done
The Black Death, also known as the bubonic plague or simply the Plague, is a serious and often fatal disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is transmitted through fleas from rodent animals to humans.
This plague had a very important outbreak in the Middle Ages, causing the death of almost 30% of the population of Europe, however, nowadays it is quite rare, being more frequent in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa and in islands of Madagascar, for example. In Brazil, the last reported cases were after the year 2000, with only three cases in the entire country, in Bahia, Ceará and Rio de Janeiro.
When there is a suspicion of the Black Death, it is very important to seek medical help as soon as possible, because in people who do not undergo treatment within 48 hours, the chances of cure are very low.
There are 3 main types of plague, which vary according to how the disease was transmitted and the symptoms presented:
1. Bubonic Plague or Black Death
It is the best known type of plague that causes symptoms such as:
- Fever above 38º C;
- Constant chills;
- Very severe headache;
- Excessive fatigue;
- Very swollen and painful tongues (lymph nodes), which are popularly called bubo.
Typically, the lymph nodes are inflamed near the flea bite site, but if treatment is not started, the infection can spread through the lymphatic system, affecting the entire body.
2. Septicemic plague
Septicemic plague happens when the plague bacteria multiply in the blood and, therefore, in addition to excessive tiredness, fever and chills, other signs such as severe abdominal pain and purple spots on the skin are also common. caused by bleeding under the skin.
Also, some areas of the skin may turn black due to tissue death, and this is most common on the nose and fingers and toes.
3. Pneumonic plague
This type of plague is accompanied by the development of pneumonia and, therefore, some common signs include:
- Difficulty breathing;
- Feeling short of breath;
- Chest pain;
- Constant cough that may contain blood.
Pneumonic plague can arise from inhaling particles contaminated by rat faeces, but it is also a common complication of other types of plague, especially septicemic plague, when treatment is not started in time. The incubation period varies from 1 to 3 days.
Although it is rarer, this type of Plague is quite dangerous, especially as it can be spread through coughing or sneezing between people, especially in closed places and with artificial or reduced ventilation.So, people with this type of plague should stay in isolation.
How to confirm the diagnosis
Normally, the diagnosis of Plague is suspected through the information provided by the person related to their lifestyle, such as if they were in places with cases of the disease, in addition to the presence of signs or symptoms indicative of the disease, such as swelling of the tongues, fever and excessive tiredness.
However, to confirm the diagnosis, an examination of sputum, blood and/or fluids can be performed, as well as a biopsy of a piece of tissue taken from a tongue, for example, in order to identify the presence of of the bacterium Yersinia pestis, confirming the disease.
Transmission of the bubonic plague
Transmission of the Black Death is done in most cases through rodents, especially rats, but normally the disease reaches humans through fleas. This is because, after killing the mouse, the flea usually migrates to other bodies to continue feeding on the blood.For this reason, the disease can also appear in other stung animals, such as cats or dogs.
Although it is rarer, plague can also pass from one person to another, but this is especially true in cases of pneumonic plague, where the bacteria can be transmitted through droplets released when coughing or sneezing. Another possible form of transmission is contact with the blood or fluids of other infected people or animals.
How to avoid catching the Plague
One of the most effective ways to prevent the emergence of the bubonic plague is to control the rodent population. To do this, at home, it is best to avoid the accumulation of garbage, especially cardboard and old magazines, for example, since mice use this type of material to build their nest.
Also, another disease prevention technique is to apply flea products to domestic animals, especially if these animals are outside.
If there is an outbreak of plague, you should also apply repellent on the skin to keep away insects and fleas that may be infected. However, if you have any suspicious signs or symptoms of plague, you should immediately go to the hospital.
How the treatment is done
Treatment for any of the types of plague should be done with the use of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. During treatment it is necessary to stay in the hospital in an isolation room to avoid passing the disease on to other people.
Ideally, treatment should be started as soon as the first symptoms begin, as there is a risk of the plague leading to death in less than 24 hours, with the greatest risk in the first 15 hours after the onset of symptoms. Thus, if there is any suspicion of the disease, it is very important to go quickly to the hospital to confirm the diagnosis and start using the antibiotic. Understand how the treatment for the Black Death is done.