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General Practice 2023

Yersinia pestis: what é, treatment, life cycle and transmissionão

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Yersinia pestis: what é, treatment, life cycle and transmissionão
Yersinia pestis: what é, treatment, life cycle and transmissionão

Yersinia pestis is a bacterium that can be transmitted to people through flea bites or infected rodents and is responsible for the bubonic plague, also popularly known as the black plague. This disease is serious and often fatal if not treated immediately, being the main responsible for the death of more than 30% of the population of Europe in the 14th century.

Treatment of infection by this bacterium should be done as soon as the first symptoms appear, and the use of antibiotics is recommended by the infectious disease specialist or general practitioner.

Bacterial life cycle

Fles feed on blood, especially rodents.If the rodents are infected by Yersinia pestis, when parasitizing the animal, the flea also acquires this bacterium. When the rodent dies, the infected flea looks for other bodies to continue feeding on blood. Thus, it can infect other rodents and other animals such as cats or humans through bites.

Each flea can remain infected for months and thus infect more people and more animals. The first symptoms of Yersinia pestis infection appear between two and six days after infection. See the main symptoms of Yersinia pestis infection.

How the transmission happens

The transmission of this bacterium to humans can occur in several ways, such as:

  • Infected flea bite;
  • Manipulation of blood, secretions or tissues from infected animals;
  • Bites and scratches from infected cats.

The least common way of transmission is through vomiting, sneezing and coughing, in which the droplets are dispersed in the air and can spread this bacteria among the population, which is why it is important that the treatment is carried out in isolation.

Treatment of Yersinia pestis infection

Treatment of Yersinia pestis infection should be started soon after the first symptoms appear, as this bacterium can cause death in less than 24 hours. Thus, the symptoms to watch out for are swollen tongues, fever, intense headache and excessive tiredness, which appear in places with an outbreak of the disease or after being bitten by a flea, for example.

Normally, the treatment is still done in the hospital, in an isolation unit, with antibiotics directly in the vein and prescribed by an infectious disease doctor. The most effective antibiotics are:

  • Streptomycin;
  • Tetracycline;
  • Gentamycin;
  • Fluoroquinolone;
  • Cloramphenicol.

After symptoms and fever have stabilized, the infected person usually returns home and continues to use the antibiotic for up to 10 days, even if they no longer have symptoms.

How to prevent yourself

Prevention for this infection can be based on rodent and pest control and the use of repellents to avoid flea bites, as the plague-causing bacteria mainly infect rats, mice and squirrels, which are the main hosts of fleas. It is also important to wear protective equipment when handling blood, secretions and tissues from potentially infected animals.

People traveling to endemic places with risk of exposure to the bacteria can take preventive doses of tetracycline.

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