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Making a Diagnosis

In order to make a diagnosis, the doctor will ask a number of questions about a person's medical history and perform a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor will look at the skin and listen to the lungs for signs and symptoms of plague. If the doctor has a high suspicion that a person has plague, he or she will recommend certain tests.
Before making a diagnosis, the doctor will consider and rule out other possible conditions that share similar symptoms of plague. These conditions include:
  • Lymphogranuloma vernereum (a sexually transmitted disease affecting the lymph system)
  • Syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease)
  • Appendicitis
  • Hernia
  • Tularemia (a serious illness usually caused by animals)
  • Cat scratch fever (a disease associated with being scratched by a cat)
  • Shigellosis (an infectious disease typically caused by unsanitary conditions)
  • Typhoid fever (a life-threatening illness caused by Salmonella).


(Click Plague Diagnosis for more information.)


Treatment for Plague

When plague is suspected, the person is often hospitalized and placed in isolation. Even before lab tests come back, treatment will be started, typically involving antibiotics. It is also important that people who have been in close contact with a plague patient, particularly a patient with plague pneumonia, should be identified and evaluated.
(Click Plague Treatment for more information.)


Left untreated, plague bacteria can quickly multiply in the bloodstream, causing septicemic plague, or even progress to the lungs, causing pneumonic plague. The plague mortality rate is 50 to 90 percent if left untreated; the rate drops to 15 percent when diagnosed and treated early.

The Plague

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