The Bubonic Plague
If you think you have the bubonic plague, your doctor will ask a number of questions about your medical history and perform a physical exam before making a diagnosis. During the physical exam, your doctor will look at your skin and listen to the lungs for signs and symptoms of bubonic plague. If your doctor has a high suspicion that you have the disease, he or she will recommend certain tests.
Because several conditions share similar symptoms with the bubonic plague, your doctor will consider these and rule them out before making a definitive diagnosis. Some of these conditions include:
- Syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease)
- Tularemia (a serious illness usually caused by animals)
- Typhoid fever (a life-threatening illness caused by Salmonella)
- Lymphogranuloma vernereum (a sexually transmitted disease affecting the lymph system)
- Shigellosis (an infectious disease typically caused by unsanitary conditions)
- Cat scratch fever (a disease associated with being scratched by a cat).
(Click How Is Bubonic Plague Diagnosed? for more information.)
Treatment for the Bubonic Plague
If it is suspected that a person has the bubonic plague, treatment should be started even before lab tests come back, and the person should be hospitalized and placed in isolation. Treatment generally involves antibiotics. It is also important that people who have been in close contact with someone who has bubonic plague be identified and evaluated.
The bubonic plague can quickly progress, possibly causing septicemic plague, or even develop into pneumonic plague, if it is not treated early. The mortality rate is 50 to 90 percent if not treated; the rate is 15 percent when diagnosed and treated early.