In order to make a diagnosis, the doctor will ask a number of questions about your medical history and will likely perform a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor will look at the skin and listen to the lungs for signs and symptoms of bubonic plague. If the doctor has a high suspicion that a person has the disease, he or she will recommend certain tests.
Before diagnosing bubonic plague, however, the doctor will consider other possible conditions, because several conditions share similar symptoms of plague. These conditions include:
- Syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease)
- Lymphyogranuloma vernereum (a sexually transmitted disease affecting the lymph system)
- Tularemia (a serious illness usually caused by animals)
- Cat scratch fever (a disease associated with being scratched by a cat)
- Shigellosis (an infectious disease typically caused by unsanitary conditions)
- Typhoid fever (a life-threatening illness caused by Salmonella).
When bubonic plague is suspected, the person should be hospitalized and placed in isolation. Even before lab tests come back, treatments for bubonic plague will be started, typically involving antibiotics and supportive care. Supportive care is treating symptoms and complications that occur as a result of bubonic plague. It also important that people who have been in close contact with a bubonic plague patient be identified and evaluated for possible treatment.
If bubonic plague is left untreated, the bacteria can quickly multiply in the bloodstream, causing septicemic plague, or even progress to the lungs, causing pneumonic plague. The bubonic plague mortality rate is 50 to 90 percent if not treated; the mortality rate is 15 percent when the disease is diagnosed and treated early.