Information for Patients
Plague is an infection caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. The bacteria are found mainly in rats and in the fleas that feed on them. People and other animals can get plague from rat or flea bites. In the past, plague destroyed entire civilizations. Today plague is uncommon, due to better living conditions and antibiotics.
There are three forms of plague:
- Bubonic plague causes the tonsils, adenoids, spleen, and thymus to become inflamed. Symptoms include fever, aches, chills, and tender lymph glands.
- In septicemic plague, bacteria multiply in the blood. It causes fever, chills, shock, and bleeding under the skin or other organs.
- Pneumonic plague is the most serious form. Bacteria enter the lungs and cause pneumonia. People with the infection can spread this form to others. This type could be a bioterror agent.
Lab tests can diagnose plague. Treatment is a strong antibiotic. There is no vaccine.
Sepsis is a serious illness. It happens when your body has an overwhelming immune response to a bacterial infection. The chemicals released into the blood to fight the infection trigger widespread inflammation. This leads to blood clots and leaky blood vessels. They cause poor blood flow, which deprives your body's organs of nutrients and oxygen. In severe cases, one or more organs fail. In the worst cases, blood pressure drops and the heart weakens, leading to septic shock.
Anyone can get sepsis, but the risk is higher in
- People with weakened immune systems
- Infants and children
- Adults 65 and older
- People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, and kidney or liver disease
- People suffering from a severe burn or physical trauma
Common symptoms of sepsis are fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion, and disorientation. Doctors diagnose sepsis using a blood test to see if the number of white blood cells is abnormal. They also do lab tests that check for signs of infection.
People with sepsis are usually treated in hospital intensive care units. Doctors try to treat the infection, sustain the vital organs, and prevent a drop in blood pressure. Many patients receive oxygen and intravenous (IV) fluids. Other types of treatment, such as respirators or kidney dialysis, may be necessary. Sometimes, surgery is needed to clear up an infection.
NIH: National Institute of General Medical Sciences