Yersinia pestis – Infection, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Yersinia pestis – Gerneal Infection, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Yersinia pestis, the culprit behind the infamous Black Death, spread by rat fleas, has cast a shadow over human civilization, taken the lives of countless peasants and nobles alike like a violent brute who murders invariably. There are three major forms of infection stages, the bubonic plague, the septicemic plague, and the pneumonic plague (primary and secondary), all are lethal if not treated with proper antibiotics. Due to similar symptoms, clinical diagnosis, the distinction between a common cold and a lethal infection is made difficult. However, though a potent murderer, Yersinia pestis can be easily eliminated by antibiotic treatment; survivors of the disease
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Converse to common fears, the bubonic plague is not contagious, and is not lethal. However, if the bacteria spread from the buboes and into the blood, it becomes extremely dangerous. Septicemic plague occurs when the “dissemination of…bacteria leads to high-density bacteremia, [which] produces (sc) endotoxic shock and disseminates intravascular coagulation, [and] often resulting in [patient’s] death in spite of antibiotic treatment.” (157) It is especially difficult to administer antibiotics early, because “sometimes, infection with Y. pestis results in high bacteremia without evidence of a papable lymphadenopathy…referred to as primary septicemic plague…[which] often resembles other gram-negative septicemias.” (157) Symptoms indicative of a septicemic plague, including fever, headache, chill, diarrhea, and vomiting are synonymous to a common viral/bacterial. Hence its confusing symptoms, “a patient with undifferentiated sepsis might be treated with antibiotics that are not effective against Y. pestis.” (157) The septicemic plague is also not contagious, unless blood comes in contact directly or indirectly.
In some cases of the bubonic and septicemic plague, the “bacteria are able to invade the pulmonary tissue from the blood, inducing a neutrophilic inflammatory response, [and] as they multiply, the bacteria sometimes enter the alveolar spaces, resulting in secondary pneumonic plague.” (157) Patients with the pneumonic plague, the only contagious
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