Bubonic Plague

2091 Words Feb 16th, 2002 9 Pages
Bubonic plague has had a major impact on the history of the world. Caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, and transmitted by fleas often found on rats, bubonic plague has killed over 50 million people over the centuries. Burrowing rodent populations across the world keep the disease present in the world today. Outbreaks, though often small, still occur in many places. The use of antibiotics and increased scientific knowledge first gained in the 1890s have reduced the destruction of plague outbreaks. In Medieval times, with the unknowing help of humans, bubonic plague exploded into a pandemic. Known as the ³Black Death², it decimated Europe in 1350, killing 1/3 of the
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Fourteenth century physicians didn't know what caused the plague, but they knew it was contagious. As a result they wore an early kind of bioprotective suit which included a large beaked head piece. The beak of the head piece, which made them look like large birds, was filled with vinegar, sweet oils and other strong smelling compounds to counteract the stench of the dead and dying plague victims.

Bubonic plague has a vaccine. It lasts for about 6 months. Currently, plague vaccine is not available in the United States. A new vaccine is being worked on and could be licensed later this year. Travelers to plague infested areas should take prophylaxic antibiotics. The preferred antibiotic for prophylaxis is tetracycline or doxycycline, and for children 8 or less, sulfonamides. Bubonic plague is easily treated if caught early. Streptomycin is the preferred drug, but gentamicin, teracyclines, and chloramphenicol also are effective. Penicillin is useless on plague. Treatment shortly after exposure can reduce overall plague mortality from 60%-100% to 10%-15%. The most effective way to prevent plague is better sanitary conditions and precautions. These conditions and precautions include:
-rat populations should be controlled using rodenticide
-effective insecticides should be used to control the flea population that transmits plague to humans and rodents
-ships should be fumigated with hydrocyanic gas before arriving in port
-conditions around human dwellings should be made

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