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Plague (cont.)

How Do Health Care Professionals Diagnose Plague?

In making the diagnosis, a doctor performs certain blood tests such as cultures (growing the bacteria in the lab from samples of blood, sputum, and fluid from the bubo). Cultures require more than 48 hours to produce definitive results.

  • A doctor may order an X-ray film of the chest, especially to see if plague has infected the lungs.
  • If plague infection is discovered or suspected, an infectious disease specialist should be contacted for assistance.
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may test samples with more sophisticated procedures. Typically, the CDC and the local Department of Health officials attempt to identify the source of the plague and begin procedures for preventing a potential plague epidemic.

What Is the Treatment for Plague?

If doctors suspect a patient may have plague, healthcare professionals will take precautions when dealing with the patient and will wear goggles, gloves, gowns, and masks.

  • Patients are isolated and precautions taken not to infect others. Some patients may need help breathing and are given oxygen. They are kept away from others for two to three days after antibiotic treatment has started or until the infection is cleared.
  • Most patients experience some degree of septic shock (low blood pressure), and specialists monitor this closely in an intensive care unit.
  • Medical management of plague can involve a number of medications. Antibiotics must be given early in the infection to maximize the chance of the antibiotics killing Y. pestis bacteria. These antibiotics might include streptomycin sulfate in combination with tetracycline and other antibiotics.
  • Well or asymptomatic contacts of people with the plague are followed up closely and may be given prophylactic antibiotics as a precaution against disease development.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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