Plague Home > Effects of the Bubonic Plague

Within one to six days of being infected, the bubonic plague's effects can start to appear. If left untreated, the condition can lead to death. Possible signs of infection include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and buboes. In less than 10 percent of infected people, plague meningitis can occur. The symptoms of bubonic plague meningitis include stiff neck, fever, headache, and coma.

Effects of the Bubonic Plague: An Overview

When a person becomes infected with the bacteria that cause plague (Yersinia pestis), the bacteria begin to multiply. After one to six days, the effects of this infection can become apparent. The period between becoming infected and the appearance of symptoms is called the plague incubation period. The effects of the bubonic plague infection tend to quickly become worse, and death may occur if they are not treated.

Common Bubonic Plague Effects

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

Other Effects

Bubonic plague meningitis occurs very rarely as a result of the bubonic plague (in about 10 percent of cases). Effects of this condition can include:
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Headache.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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