Symptoms and Signs of Plague Disease (Black Death)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Plague Disease (Black Death)

Plague (also called “Black Death”) is an infectious disease caused by plague bacillus (bacterium), Yersinia pestis. It spreads easily and can be fatal if not treated. The plague killed nearly 200 million people during the Middle Ages and more recently there is concern that forms of the plague could be used as biological weapons in a bioterrorism attack.

Symptoms of plague include fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, weakness, general feeling of illness, abdominal pain (may be the only symptom for septicemic plague), nausea, vomiting (may be bloody), constipation, diarrhea, black or tarry stools, cough (may contain blood), shortness of breath, stiff neck, fever, heart irregularities, low blood pressure, confusion, seizures (later in the infection period), buboes (enlarged, tender, swollen lymph gland most commonly found in the groin, under the arms, or on the neck, depending on the locations of the flea bite), and bleeding into the tissues that can turn tissue black.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.