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Plague 

Chapter:
Plague
DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198729228.003.0099
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date: 19 November 2019

Yersinia pestis is a Gram-negative coccobacillus which is transmitted from rodents to humans, usually by flea bites. Over a few days, infection from a flea bite migrates to a regional lymph node which swells to cause a bubo, i.e. bubonic plague. Untreated, bubonic plague has a mortality rate of up to 50%. Pneumonic plague occurs when a human breathes in the bacilli from a heavily infected host (human or animal); without treatment, all cases are fatal. Around the world, there are still more than 20 000 cases of plague per year, often in countries where health systems have suffered due to war and civil unrest. Yersinia pestis can be effectively treated with gentamicin or doxycycline; safe and effective vaccines are in development.

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