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Chapter 13 : Plague
One of the most notable effects of the plague was its influence on the development of modern medicine. The life cycle of plague is maintained in complex enzootic and epizootic episodes that involve numerous rodent reservoirs and flea vectors throughout the world. During the course of human history, pandemics of plague have occurred under two geographic settings, classified as either urban or sylvatic. The increasing popularity of the domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo) as a pet might also raise concern about the rise of another potentially susceptible reservoir that has a close association with human households. This concern is tempered by the results of one study that involved eight domestic ferrets experimentally infected with Yersinia pestis. This study showed that domestic ferrets developed high serum antibody titers and showed no clinical signs of disease; Y. pestis could not be detected in tissues 21 days postinfection. In humans, plague is generally classified as bubonic, septicemic, or pneumonic. The pathogenesis in naturally infected cats is an acute disease depicted by fever, lethargy, buboes, formation of abscesses, and occasionally pneumonia. The standard method of serodiagnosis is the passive hemagglutination assay or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with F1 antigen. In the event of a bioterrorism incident involving Y. pestis, it will be critical that human health care first responders, veterinarians, and public health officials be familiar with the normal geographic distribution, clinical presentation, and diagnosis of the disease in both humans and animals.