Facts about Pneumonic Plague (CDC):
This material has been developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reuse or reproduction of this
material is authorized. Information updated September 2001.
Facts about Pneumonic Plague
Plague is an infectious disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis.
Y. pestis, is found in rodents and their fleas in many areas around the world.
Pneumonic plague occurs when Y. pestis infects the lungs. The first signs of illness in
pneumonic plague are fever, headache, weakness, and cough productive of bloody or watery
sputum. The pneumonia progresses over 2 to 4 days and may cause septic shock and, without
early treatment, death.
Person-to-person transmission of pneumonic plague occurs through respiratory droplets, which
can only infect those who have face-to-face contact with the ill patient.
Early treatment of pneumonic plague is essential. Several antibiotics are effective, including
streptomycin, tetracycline, and chloramphenicol.
There is no vaccine against plague.
Prophylactic antibiotic treatment for 7 days will protect persons who have had face-to-face
contact with infected patients.