Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Plague

An acute infection caused by a bacillus, Yersinia pestis (formerly Pasturella pestis). The most common form is bubonic plague. Other forms include septicemic plague, a severe, systemic form with rapid progression, and pneumonic plague, which can be secondary to the other forms. Mortality is about 60% in bubonic plague, and approaches 100% in the septicemic and pneumonic forms. Until recently plague was restricted to specific habitats in Asia. Sylvatic (wild rodent) plague is now endemic in rodent populations in many of the mountainous regions of the world. The bacillus is vectored by fleas (Xenophylla cheopis), and is occasionally transmitted to humans by the bite of this flea. Plague is thought to have been indigenous to Africa, as the clinical symptoms had been accurately described there in ancient times.

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From "Dictionary of Nursing and Individual Health Care"