The bubonic plague is not common, nor is it the public health crisis it once was, but the disease still occurs in many parts of the world. During medieval times, the plague was known as the Black Death and killed between 25 and 200 million people. Today, there are fewer than 5,000 cases a year. A recent case in Mongolia made headlines around the world, but the risk of a large outbreak is low thanks to modern medicine.
The Y. pestis bacteria, transmitted by infected fleas, causes plague. There are three types: bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic. In cases of septicemic plague, the bacteria get into the bloodstream. Symptoms include fever, chills, bleeding, and gangrene. Pneumonic plague is a lung infection that is deadly if not treated within 48 hours of onset. It causes cough, bloody sputum, fever, chest pain, and breathing difficulties.
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