Plague Home > Pneumonic Plague Symptoms

If the bacteria that cause plague (Yersinia pestis) move to the lungs, symptoms of pneumonic plague usually appear within one to three days. Common signs and symptoms include weakness, fever, headache, and shortness of breath. They usually progress for two to four days and may eventually cause respiratory failure and shock. Even with treatment, symptoms of this disease result in death 75 percent of the time.

Signs and Symptoms of Pneumonic Plague: An Overview

When a person becomes infected with the bacteria that cause pneumonic plague, the bacteria begin to multiply within the lungs. After one to three days, pneumonic plague symptoms can begin. The period between becoming infected and the start of symptoms is called the pneumonic plague incubation period.

Common Symptoms

When they begin, pneumonic plague symptoms can often include:


    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Cough
    • Bloody or watery sputum (saliva and discharge from respiratory passages).


Progression of Symptoms

With pneumonic plague, symptoms usually progress for two to four days, and may eventually cause respiratory failure and shock. Death typically occurs within two to six days after symptoms begin. The mortality rate of pneumonic plague is 75 percent, even with appropriate plague treatment.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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