Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Bubonic Plague is back: Should you be worried?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bubonic Plague and its causes

Mains level: Rise of zoonotic diseases

Bubonic Plague


  • Recent reports from Oregon, US, confirm the reemergence of bubonic plague, marking the first case since 2005.
  • Notable historical instances include the Third Pandemic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, originating in China and spreading worldwide, reaching India by 1896.

What is Bubonic Plague?

  • Cause: Bubonic plague is caused by Yersinia pestis, a zoonotic bacterium primarily found in small animals and their fleas, capable of transmission to humans.
  • Transmission: The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies three primary modes of transmission:
  1. Through infected vector fleas,
  2. Contact with infectious bodily fluids or materials, and
  3. Inhalation of respiratory droplets from pneumonic plague patients.

Symptoms and Forms

  • Bubonic Plague: Characterized by fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and weakness, typically resulting from flea bites.
  • Septicemic Plague: Occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream, leading to severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, shock, and skin discoloration.
  • Pneumonic Plague: The most perilous form, causing rapid-onset pneumonia, and posing a high risk of fatality if left untreated, with potential person-to-person transmission.

Historical Impact of the Black Death

  • Deadliest Outbreak: The Black Death, spanning from 1346 to 1353, decimated up to half of Europe’s population, leaving a profound and enduring impact on survivors.
  • Genetic Legacy: Genetic mutations linked to increased survival during the Black Death era have been identified, albeit with potential implications for autoimmune diseases in modern populations.
  • Social and Economic Ramifications: Historians attribute Europe’s rise to global dominance partly to the aftermath of the Black Death, shaping subsequent societal, economic, and cultural trajectories.

Contemporary Outlook and Mitigation

  • Limited Spread: Medical experts allay fears of a Black Death resurgence, affirming the localized nature of the recent bubonic plague case and the low likelihood of widespread transmission.
  • Modern Interventions: Advancements in antibiotics and healthcare infrastructure significantly mitigate the threat posed by bubonic plague, rendering it treatable and containing its potential impact.
  • Global Surveillance: Vigilant monitoring and prompt treatment protocols contribute to managing sporadic plague cases reported worldwide, underscoring the importance of continued vigilance and preparedness.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch