Pictures of Bubonic Plague

What it looks like and how it's spread

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Norway Rat

Norway rat
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission The Norway rat, also called "brown rat" or "sewer rat," can carry fleas infected with bubonic plague. Photo courtesy of the CDC

During the Middle Ages, bubonic plague, known as the "Black Death," killed thousands of people. Bubonic plague is a potentially fatal bacterial infection called "Yersina pestis." You may be surprised to learn that the disease still exists in some parts of the world. These photos show what infection with bubonic plague looks like, and also some of the ways it is transmitted from animals to humans.

The Norway rat is very common in cities as well as rural areas. It usually lives close to humans and may carry fleas infected with bubonic plague bacteria. The plague is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected flea.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Boy with Plague

Boy with bubonic plague
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission A boy with bubonic plague has a swollen lymph node, called "bubo," in his left armpit and swelling under his eyes. Photo courtesy of the CDC

After the incubation period of 2 to 6 days, symptoms of bubonic plague appear, including severe malaise, headache, shaking chills, fever and pain and swelling in the lymph nodes. This boy has a swollen lymph node, called a "bubo," in his left armpit.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Sewer Rat

Norway rat
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission A Norway rat, also known as brown rat or sewer rat, can carry bubonic plague. Photo courtesy of the CDC

The Norway rat is very common in cities as well as rural areas. It usually lives close to humans and may carry fleas infected with bubonic plague bacteria. The plague is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected flea.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Plague Bacteria

Plague bacteria
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Picture of bubonic plague bacteria from an infected lymph node, or bubo. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Bubonic plague causes swollen lymph nodes, called "buboes." This is a sample taken from a bubo and examained under the microscope. It is full of the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis (the tiny dark pairs of ovals).

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Neck Bubo

Neck bubo
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Picture of the neck of a person with bubonic plague, showing a swollen lymph gland, called a "bubo.". Photo courtesy of the CDC

After the incubation period of 2 to 6 days, symptoms of bubonic plague appear, including severe malaise, headache, shaking chills, fever and pain and swelling in the lymph nodes. The swollen lymph nodes are called "buboes."

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Arm Bubo

Bubo in armpit
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission A person with bubonic plague has a swollen lymph node, called a "bubo," in his armpit. Photo courtesy of the CDC

After the incubation period of 2 to 6 days, symptoms of bubonic plague appear, including severe malaise, headache, shaking chills, fever and pain and swelling in the lymph nodes. The swollen lymph nodes are called "buboes."

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Flea

Oropsylla Montana flea
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission An adult male Oropsylla Montana flea, a carrier of bubonic plague bacteria. Photo courtesy of the CDC

This flea carries the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes bubonic plague. When it bites a rodent, such as a squirrel or rat, it infects the animal with the plague bacteria. It can bite humans and infect them with plague too.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Plague Bacteria

Bubonic plague bacteria
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Photomicrograph of a blood smear containing plague bacteria. Photo courtesy of the CDC

In this picture, blood is being examined under a microscope. The Yersinia pestis bacteria that cause bubonic plague are the tiny pairs of dark red things.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Flea Powder

Flea powder
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Using flea powder on pets helps control the spread of bubonic plague by killing fleas. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Fleas can carry the Yersinia pestis bacteria that cause bubonic plague. Treating pets with flea powder or flea collars helps control the spread of infected fleas.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Developing Foot Gangrene

Foot gangrene
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission The feet of a person, who is developing gangrene, infected with bubonic plague. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Bubonic plague infection causes tiny blood vessels in the feet and toes to clog up and cut off circulation. Without blood, the flesh dies and turns black (called "gangrene"). This is why in the Middle Ages, bubonic plague was called "The Black Death." The feet in this picture are in the process of developing gangrene.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Hand Gangrene

Hand gangrene
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Picture of gangrene in the hand caused by bubonic plague. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Bubonic plague infection causes tiny blood vessels in the hands and fingers to clog up and cut off circulation. Without blood, the flesh dies and turns black (called "gangrene"). This is why in the Middle Ages bubonic plague was called "the Black Death."

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Cat

Cat
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Cats are highly susceptible to plague infection and frequently die of the disease. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Swelling of the lymph nodes (called "buboes") under the jaw are common and prominent among cat victims of bubonic plague. Domestic cats are readily infected by fleas, or from eating infected wild rodents. Cats may serve as a source of infection passing on the disease to human beings in their environments.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Cat in a Burrow

cat in a burrow
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Picture of a cat finding shelter in an animal burrow. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Cats probably acquire bubonic plague infection most often by mouthing or ingesting infected rodents. Human plague cases acquired from cats usually involve direct contact with infected fluids from the cat, or by cat bites or scratches. Four human cases of primary pneumonic plague are known to have been acquired from cats in 1980, 1982, 1992 and 1993, adding another extremely dangerous dimension to the rodent-cat-human transmission route. One of these cases was fatal, and another patient had to have an infected lung removed.

Source:

"ID #6714." Public Health Image Library (PHIL). 18 Mar 2005. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 28 Jan 2009

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Dog Blood Test

Taking a blood sample from a dog
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Taking a blood sample from a dog to test for bubonic plague infection. Photo courtesy of the CDC

A positive blood test from a dog usually means that it has eaten a bubonic plague-infected rodent. Dogs can also become infected through being bitten by a flea carrying the plague bacteria.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Foot Gangrene

Foot gangrene
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Foot gangrene caused by bubonic plague. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Bubonic plague infection causes tiny blood vessels in the feet and toes to clog up and cut off circulation. Without blood, the flesh dies and turns black (called "gangrene"). This is why in the Middle Ages bubonic plague was called "the Black Death."

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Flea Killer

Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Picture of permethrin-treated cotton. The cotton is collected by rats and brought back to their nests. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Cotton treated with 0.5% permethrin is collected by rats to take back to their nests to kill fleas. This prevents the transmission of bubonic plague by fleas and ticks to other rodents and people.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Weasel

Weasel
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission A weasel can have fleas that carry bubonic plague bacteria. Photo courtesy of the CDC

The long-tailed weasel, Mustela frenata, here seen in its winter coat, is a carrier of fleas that have Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague bacterium. This animal was found during a 1975 plague and Colorado tick fever study.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Setting Rat Traps

setting traps for rats
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission A man setting traps for rats during a plague study. Photo courtesy of the CDC

Millions of people in Europe died from bubonic plague in the Middle Ages, when homes and places of work were inhabited by flea-infested rats. The fleas carried the Yersinia pestis bacterium that causes bubonic plague.

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Bubonic Plague Pictures: Arm Bleeding

Bubonic plague infection
Photos of Bubonic Plague Infections and Transmission Picture of the arm of a person with bubonic plague, showing bleeding under the skin. Photo courtesy of the CDC

After the incubation period of 2 to 6 days, symptoms of bubonic plague appear, including severe malaise, headache, shaking chills, fever and pain and swelling in the lymph nodes. This person has bleeding under the skin.

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