Plague is a zoonotic disease of rodents and their fleas caused by Yersinia pestis. Fleas infected by feeding on a diseased rodent may transfer the infection to other rodents and to man. Commonly, the initial response, in man and in rodent, is a lymphadenitis, adjacent to the site of the bite. If not contained at this level, there is bloodstream invasion, and a frequent complication is involvement of the lungs. This can result in direct patient-to-person transfer of Y. pestis. There can be either a few sporadic secondary cases or devastating epidemics. In the flea-transferred form (bubonic) prior to 1940, the death rate was 50–70%. In the pneumonic transfer form, practically all patients were expected to die. The disease was greatly feared, and this fear continues, despite the ability of today’s drugs to control the disease.


Ground Squirrel Yersinia Pestis Walter Reed Army Institute Prior Vaccination Acute Bacterial Infection 
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Suggested Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. D. Tigertt
    • 1
  1. 1.American Journal of Tropical Medicine and HygieneBaltimoreUSA

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