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Yersinia pestis, also known as plague bacteria, causes three types of plague: bubonic plague, septicemic plague, and pneumonic plague. Transmission generally occurs through direct contact with infected tissue or bodily fluids, bites from infected fleas, or inhaling infected droplets. Antibiotics offer successful treatment in the majority of cases. While in the past, this bacteria has killed millions of people, today, only a few thousand cases occur worldwide.

What Are Plague Bacteria?

Plague bacteria are Yersinia pestis. Plague is an infectious disease that can affect humans, rodents, and ectoparasites (fleas, lice).

Where Do They Come From?

These bacteria are generally found in rodents and in the fleas that feed on them; rats are the most common source of plague. Other animals and humans usually contract the bacteria from rodent or flea bites.
(Click Plague and Animals for more information.)

Types of Plague

Three forms of plague can be caused by an infection with the Yersinia bacteria, which include:
Depending on the circumstances, these forms may occur separately or in combination.
(Click Types of Plague for more information.)

Transmission of Plague Bacteria

Plague bacteria is generally transmitted in one of three ways:
  • Direct contact with infected tissue or body fluids
  • Bites from infected rodent fleas
  • Inhaling infected droplets.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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