Plague Home > Bubonic Plague Symptoms

Bubonic plague symptoms can occur within two to six days of being infected by the bacteria Yersinia pestis. If left untreated, symptoms, such as vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, can progress rapidly to septicemic plague. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of people with bubonic plague symptoms will also develop symptoms in the lungs. This is called pneumonic plague, and is often fatal.

An Introduction to Bubonic Plague Symptoms

When a person becomes infected with the bacteria that cause bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis), the bacteria begin to multiply within the lymph system. (The lymph or lymphatic system is a major component of your body's immune system. The organs within the lymphatic system are the tonsils, adenoids, spleen, and thymus.)
After two to six days, bubonic plague symptoms can occur. The period between becoming infected and the start of symptoms is called the bubonic plague incubation period. If they are not treated quickly, these symptoms can rapidly worsen and result in death.

Early Bubonic Plague Symptoms

Early bubonic plague symptoms can include:
  • Buboes (tender, enlarged lymph nodes under the armpits, in the neck, or in the groin, ranging in size from 1 to 10 cm., and found in 70 percent of patients)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea, which may be bloody
  • Decreased appetite
  • Tiny broken blood vessels (called petechiae).
(Click Bubonic Plague Pictures to see examples of bubonic plaque symptoms.)

Bubonic Plague Symptoms: Septicemia

Bubonic plague symptoms can progress rapidly to septicemia. This condition occurs when the bacteria that cause plague (Yersinia pestis) invade the bloodstream (this is also known as septicemic plague).
Symptoms that indicate the bubonic plague has reached this stage include:
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Delirium
  • Death.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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