Plague Facts

MERS-CoV Fact Sheet Image/ThumbnailWhat is Plague?

Plague is a disease that affects humans and other mammals, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. There are three types of plague, and symptoms may depend on which type a person has: bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic. Download a plague fact sheet.

How is plague spread?

Plague can be spread to humans and other mammals in many ways. The most common ways include:

  • Being bitten by a flea.
  • By touching or holding a person or animal, (including tissue and/or body fluids) infected with plague.
  • By coughing or sneezing on another person.

What are the symptoms of plague?

Symptoms of the plague are often similar to symptoms of the flu. The most common symptoms of plague are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tender, swollen and painful lymph nodes
  • Discoloration of skin or other tissue
  • Bloody or water mucous

Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death.

Who is most at risk?

  • People who live in the western United States, including Colorado.
  • Veterinarians or others who work with animals that may be infected.
  • People who camp, hunt or hike in areas where plague-infected animals live. 

What should I do if I think I have plague?

  • People who think they have been exposed to plague, and do not feel well, should immediately go to the hospital.
  • Tell your doctor or care provider that you may have been exposed to the plague.
  • Very sick patients require immediate, intensive care.

How is plague treated?

  • Antibiotics should be given within 24 hours of first symptoms.

How can I prevent plague?

  • Remove brush, rock piles, junk and cluttered firewood where rodents may be living/hiding.
  • Store pet and wild animal food in containers that rodents cannot easily access.
  • Wear gloves when handling potentially infected animals.
  • Use repellent when going outdoors.
  • Keep fleas off of your pets by applying flea control products.

For more information or to report an outbreak, call Denver Public Health 303-602-3614.