Plague treatment typically involves antibiotics, such as gentamycin or chloramphenicol. Left untreated, the bacteria that cause plague can quickly multiply in the bloodstream or move to the lungs. For this reason, it is important for a patient to receive plague treatment as soon as possible. The mortality rate drops from 50 to 90 percent to 15 percent when a patient receives prompt treatment.
When an infection with the bacteria that cause plague (Yersinia pestis) is suspected, the person is often hospitalized and placed in isolation. Even before lab tests come back, plague treatment will be started, typically involving antibiotics. It is also important that people who have been in close contact with an infected person, particularly a patient with plague pneumonia, should be identified and evaluated.
Specific antibiotics used for plague treatment can include:
Other antibiotics, including tetracyclines and chloramphenicol, can also be effective.
Those individuals closely associated with the patient, particularly in cases with pneumonia, should be identified, traced, and evaluated. Contacts of patients with pneumonic plague should be placed under observation or given preventive antibiotic therapy, depending on the degree and timing of contact.
Left untreated, bubonic plague bacteria can quickly multiply in the bloodstream, possibly 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 mortality rate drops to 15 percent when diagnosed and treated early.