Plague Home > All About Bubonic Plague

Bubonic plague is an infectious disease that has destroyed entire civilizations throughout history. Today, however, thanks to improved sanitation, better living conditions, and antibiotics, only a few thousand people contract the disease each year. If left untreated, the mortality rate is 50 to 90 percent; when the disease is diagnosed and treated early, the mortality rate drops to 15 percent.
The cause of bubonic plague is Yersinia pestis bacteria, which are found mainly in rodents, particularly rats, and in the fleas that feed on them. Humans can acquire the disease from rodent or flea bites.
Bubonic plague is characterized by large, infected lymph nodes called buboes -- these are found in 70 percent of patients. When bubonic plague is suspected, the person is often hospitalized and placed in isolation, with treatment being started even before lab tests come back.
In most cases, treatment involves antibiotics and supportive care (treating symptoms and complications that occur as a result of the disease). People who have been in close contact with an infected person should also be identified and evaluated for possible treatment.
(Click Bubonic Plague to learn all about this disease and its effects within the body.)
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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