A bubonic plague smear, prepared from a lymph removed from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient, demonstrates the presence of the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the plague in this undated photo. (Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
Tender, warm and swollen nymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck usually develop within a week after an infected flea bite.
Signs and symptoms include sudden fever and chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches.
If bubonic plague is not treated, it can spread to other areas of body and lead to septicemic or pneumonic plague.
Occurs when bacteria multiply in the bloodstream.
Signs and symptoms include fever and chills; abdominal pain; diarrhea; vomiting; extreme fatigue and light-headedness; bleeding from mouth, nose, rectum, under skin; shock; gangrene (blackening, tissue death) in fingers, toes and nose.
Septicemic plague can quickly lead to organ failure.
Pneumonic plague (least common)
Pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs, is the most dangerous plague and is easily spread person-to-person through cough droplets.
Signs and symptoms (within a few hours after infection) include bloody cough, difficulty breathing, high fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness.
If it is not treated quickly, pneumonic plague is almost always fatal.
Immediately see a doctor if you develop symptoms of plague and have been in an area where the disease is known to occur. Your doctor will likely give you strong antibiotics (streptomycin, gentamicin or others) to combat the disease.
If there are serious complications like organ failure or bleeding abnormalities, doctors will administer intravenous fluids, respiratory support and give patients oxygen.
How to protect yourself, your family and your pets against plague
You and your family
The CDC warns against picking up or touching dead animals and letting pets sleep in the bed with you.
Experts also recommend eliminating any nesting places for rodents such as sheds, garages or rock piles, brush, trash and excess firewood.
Other ways to protect yourself and your family include wearing gloves if handling dead or sick animals, using an insect repellent with DEET to prevent flea bites and reporting sick or dead animals to your local health department or to law enforcement officials.