When plague bacteria is suspected, the person is hospitalized and placed in isolation. Even before lab tests come back, treatment will be started, usually involving antibiotics. If a person has been in close contact with a patient who has a plague bacteria infection (especially plague pneumonia), it is vital that he or she be identified and evaluated.
Septicemic plague or pneumonic plague can develop if an infection goes untreated. The mortality rate is 50 to 90 percent if not treated; it drops to 15 percent when the infection is diagnosed and treated early.
Plague bacteria will probably continue to exist in its many localized geographic areas around the world, and outbreaks in wild rodent hosts will likely continue to occur. Prevention is directed at reducing the threat of infection in humans in high-risk areas, because attempts to eliminate wild rodent plague are generally expensive and haven't shown much promise. Three techniques that assist in preventing plague include:
- Public health education
- Preventive drug therapy
- Environmental management.
Historically, plague bacteria has destroyed entire civilizations. The disease is also known as the "Black Death," and it killed approximately one-third (20 to 30 million) of Europe's population in the 1300s. In the mid-1800s, plague killed 12 million people in China. Today, plague occurs in just a few thousand people worldwide each year, thanks to better living conditions, antibiotics, and improved sanitation.