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Topics Covered:

  1. Issues related to health.



What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Plague- causes, symptoms and prevention.


Context: Two people in Beijing were recently diagnosed with the pneumonic plague, which is known to be the most deadly version of the disease.


What is the plague?

The plague is a disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which is found in animals, particularly rodents.

It can be transmitted to humans through infected animals and fleas. 

In the Middle Ages (5th-15th century), plague was also known as the ‘Black Death’ as it was responsible for the deaths of millions of people in Europe. 


There are three types of plague:  

  1. Bubonic plague: This infects a person’s lymphatic system (which is a part of their immune system), causing inflammation in the lymph nodes. If left untreated, the bubonic plague can also convert into either pneumonic of septicemic plague. Its symptoms include fever, chills, weakness and headaches.  
  2. Pneumonic plague:According to WHO, pneumonic plague is the ‘most virulent form of plague’ and can be fatal within 24 to 72 hours. It occurs when the bacteria infects the lungs. It is the only type of plague that can be transmitted from human to human. Symptoms are chest pain, fever and cough. It is highly contagious and transmissible merely by coughing.  
  3. Septicemic plague: This is when the bacteria enters the blood stream and multiplies there.


If left untreated, pneumonic and bubonic plague can lead to septicemic plague. A person infected by septicemic plague may also notice their skin turning black.


How to treat and control plague?

The plague is a life-threatening disease but if caught early, can be treated with antibiotics. However, without prompt treatment, the disease can lead to serious illnesses and even death.

At times, antibiotics alone are not enough —additionally intravenous fluids and extra oxygen are required to treat a person.  

Since it is highly contagious, those who are infected with pneumonic plague are kept in isolation.

And people in close contact with the person infected are given a dose of antibiotics as a preventive measure.

Other preventive measures to curb a plague outbreak are to keep the rodent population in control with pest control measures, ensuring that surrounding areas are clear of stacks of wood that rodents feed on among others. 


Sources: the Hindu.