Plague Home > Septicemic Plague

Septicemic plague -- one of three types of plague caused by Yersinia pestis -- develops when the bacteria enters the bloodstream. It is possible for the disease to also develop as a complication of untreated bubonic or pneumonic plague, or from being bitten by an infected flea or rodent. Symptoms of septicemic plague include rapid heart rate, severe headache, vomiting, and other symptoms.

An Introduction to Septicemic Plague

Plague is an infectious disease that affects animals and humans. It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. This bacterium is found in rodents and their fleas, and occurs in many areas of the world, including the United States.
Septicemic plague is one form of plague (the others are pneumonic plague and septicemic plague). It develops when Yersinia pestis enters the bloodstream.

How Is Septicemic Plague Spread?

Usually, septicemic plague is spread through the bites of an infected flea or rodent. In rare cases, Yersinia pestis bacteria may enter through an opening in the skin, whether from a piece of contaminated clothing or other material used by an infected person. Septicemic plague is rarely spread from person to person. It can also appear as a complication of untreated bubonic or pneumonic plague.

Symptoms of Septicemic Plague

Bubonic plague symptoms can progress rapidly to septicemic plague symptoms. A person can also have symptoms of septicemic plague without showing symptoms of bubonic plague first.
Common septicemic plague symptoms include:
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Delirium
  • Death.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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