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term applied to the worldwide epidemic of the 14th-century, of which some 60 million people are thought to have died; descriptions indicate that it was bubonic, septocemic, and pneumonic plague.
black plagueThe black plague arrived with the Tartars in Sicily in late 1347, and reached Paris by the following winter; within 3–4 years of its debut, it had killed 25 million, 30% to 60% of Europe’s population at the time. Yersinia pestis infection of mammalian hosts is attributed to suppression and avoidance of the host’s immune defences—e.g., phagocytosis and antibody production.
plague(plag) [L., plaga, blow, injury]
1. Any widespread contagious disease associated with a high death rate.
2. An often fatal disease caused by Yersinia pestis. The natural hosts are ground squirrels, wild rodents, and rats; the vector is the rat flea. In the U.S., hunters, trappers, and campers may encounter infected mammals. Outbreaks are also associated with crowded living conditions and poor sanitation. Although plague was responsible for millions of deaths during the Middle Ages, improvements in sanitation, medical care, and the availability of antibiotics now prevent widespread epidemics. Plague is characterized by high fever, restlessness, confusion, prostration, delirium, shock, and coma. Streptomycin (the antibiotic of choice), gentamicin, tetracyclines, doxycycline, fluoroquinolones, and chloramphenicol are effective in treating plague. In the U.S., about 15 cases of plague are reported annually, primarily in western and southwestern regions. If treated promptly, plague is rarely fatal; however, in the U.S. about 1 in 7 people infected dies, usually because of delayed diagnosis or treatment.
A mild form of bubonic plague.
A severe form of bubonic plague in which there is hemorrhage into the skin.
A plague infecting rats.
A highly virulent form of plague spread from person to person by respiratory secretions. It occurs as a sequela of bubonic plague or as a primary infection.
Severe bubonic plague; septicemia may precede the formation of buboes.
Bubonic plague that is endemic among wild rodents and their fleas.
An historical term for tuberculosis.