Plague Home > Symptoms of Plague

Within one to six days of being infected, symptoms of plague tend to appear. The actual time varies for each type of plague, as do the symptoms. However, common plague signs and symptoms include fever, cough, and headache. In less than 10 percent of people with the disease, plague meningitis can develop. Symptoms of this type include stiff neck, fever, headache, and coma.

Signs and Symptoms of 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, symptoms of plague can occur. The period between becoming infected and the start of symptoms is called the plague incubation period. If a person is not treated immediately, symptoms can rapidly worsen, and death may occur.
There are three types of plague:
Each type has different symptoms. It is possible for a person to have symptoms of only one type; it is also possible for a person to experience symptoms from each of the types. For example, a person may first develop bubonic plague symptoms, followed several days later by septicemic plague, and then by pneumonic plague.

Bubonic Plague Symptoms

Symptoms of bubonic plague can include:
  • Buboes (tender, enlarged lymph nodes found under the armpits, in the neck, or in the groin, ranging in size from 1 to 10 cm., in 70 percent of people)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Diarrhea, which may be bloody
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Tiny broken blood vessels (called petechiae).
(Click Bubonic Plague Pictures to see photos of plague symptoms.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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