Could Bubonic Pneumonic Plague Rear it’s Head Again?
This question crossed my mind after watching a recent documentary about bubonic pneumonic plague also know as the Black Death. The documentary discussed the Black Death which occurred in London in 1349 killing millions. It focused on twenty-five bodies that were recovered and subjected to modern DNA testing. The results confirmed that it was indeed the bubonic plague that caused an almost apocalyptic event in the thirteenth century.
After the program finished I thought to myself hang on a minute. I’m prepping for disasters, nuclear and terrorist attacks, flu pandemics and so on. Why hadn’t I considered bubonic pneumonic plague as part of my preparedness plans. Maybe there is no need to be overly concerned about such an old pandemic. After all, we have medical science and good old antibiotics.
Then I had a flashback to news reports I’d read on the effectiveness and longevity of antibiotics. They had stated that if we don’t develop new antibiotics were going to have problems. So I decided to do some research and find the answers to the following questions.
What Is Bubonic Pneumonic and How is it Transmitted?
Bubonic pneumonic plague is a bacterial infection caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis. It’s normally found in small mammals such as rats and also in the fleas that feed off those mammals. Humans get infected with plague if they are bitten by infected fleas. It is also contracted via person to person contact or contact with infected materials or by inhalation. Symptoms can develop anywhere between one and seven days after exposure to the disease. They include fever, headaches, and vomiting.
What’s the Difference Between Bubonic Pneumonic Plague?
This is the most common strain of the disease. It is contracted from a bite from an infected flea. Around six days after initial infection, there is a noticeable blackish blister at the bite point. The lymph nodes in the affected limb then start to swell as the body attempts to combat the infection. These swellings are known as buboes and this is where the name bubonic plague comes from. It is estimated that bubonic plague results in the death of 50-60% of its victims.
Pneumonic plague is a more extreme form of the disease. In cold weather, the infection moves into the lungs and results in a form of pneumonia. The infected person suffers from fever and then begins to cough up blood. This contains plague bacteria which becomes airborne and highly contagious. After initial infection, the victim will suffer neurological difficulties and fall into a coma. The estimated death rate of pneumonic plague is 95-100% certain death within three days of infection.
History of the Plague?
Researchers have recently revealed the plague could have been responsible for the demise of the Roman empire. Bubonic pneumonic plague is more commonly known for two of the most devastating pandemics in recorded history.
- The Great Plague, which lasted from the 14th to 17th centuries and included the black death. This may have killed nearly two-thirds of Europe in the mid-1300s.
- The Modern Plague, which began in China in China in the mid-1800s. Spreading around the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. Including Africa, the Americas, Australia, Europe and other parts of Asia.
Does Bubonic Pneumonic Plague Exist Today?
Before starting my research I had expected to read that bubonic pneumonic Plague had long since been stamped out. However, after reading an article called Plague is spreading at an alarming rate in Madagascar. Yes, plague. I was surprised to find this is not the case. So I dug deeper and found an article recently written by the new york times saying that the plague had recently been reported in new Mexico Plague Is Found in New Mexico. Again.
During my research I also found these articles that confirm bubonic pneumonic Plague has not been stamped out:
At this point I’m now getting a little concerned. Nowadays you don’t have to wait for rats to climb aboard a ship and travel to a different continent. An infected person who has contracted the disease on another continent could travel to different countries within hours. Resulting in unknowingly infecting anyone they may come into contact with.
How is Bubonic Pneumonic Plague Treated?
An infected person will need immediate treatment. If not treated within the first 24 hours of symptoms, death may occur. Treatment in the form of antibiotics such as streptomycin, gentamicin, doxycycline, or ciprofloxacin is recommended. Along with the use of oxygen, intravenous fluids, and respiratory support.
Reliance on Antibiotics to Treat Bubonic Pneumonic Plague
Whilst we currently have the ability to use antibiotics to treat infections of bubonic pneumonic Plague. You don’t have to do a lot of research to uncover the fact that antibiotics are being overused. Bacteria and disease are fighting back and becoming more resistant to antibiotics. We are desperately in need of medical science to find new types of antibiotic before it’s too late. If not resolved pandemic could once again cause the mass loss of human life. It really would become a SHTF pandemic if these antibiotics failed to work at all.
Can Bubonic Pneumonic Plague be used as a Weapon?
The answer is yes, in fact, it is reported that the Mongols catapulted plague victims into cities. In this case, the plague was used as one of the first known examples of biological warfare. Also due to the availability of Yersinia pestis in microbe banks around the world. There have been reports that techniques for mass production and aerosol dissemination of plague have been developed.
How to Best Prevent & Prepare for a Plague Pandemic?
Infection Control (Prevention)
The first line of a defense is infection control via the following steps:
- Reduce rodent habitat around your home, workplace, and recreational areas. Remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies, such as pet and wild animal food. Make your home and outbuildings rodent-proof.
- Wear gloves when handling or skinning potentially infected animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria.
- Use repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities like, camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing. Products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing (always follow instructions on the label).
- Keep fleas off of your pets by applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely are more likely to come in contact with the plague. Infected animals or fleas and could bring them into homes. If your pet becomes sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free in endemic areas to sleep on your bed.
Preparing for the Worst (It’s already hit the fan)
If the SHTF and the plague arrives, unfortunately, history demonstrates some people are going to die. Dealing and surviving a pandemic of this nature is filled with danger and few guarantees. I am still researching and developing my own plan so the information I provide in this section is not exhaustive. I recommend you use it as a starting point in developing your own strategy for dealing with such a pandemic.
Quarantine and Isolation
In a SHTF situation and one or more people in your group or family have symptoms of the bubonic pneumonic plague. The first step will be isolation and quarantine. Isolation and quarantine help in the prevention of exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.
Isolation – Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Patients with plague should be strictly isolated from caregivers and other patients.
Quarantine – Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
Preparedness Items You Will Need
You will need to stock up on pandemic masks, an ideal rated mask is an N95 Mask or respirator like the 3M 8511PB1-A-PS Particulate N95 Respirator with Valve. The N95 recommended by US CDC for most cases of air contamination. These filters seal are made to seal tightly around mouth and nose. It’s made of material certified to block 95% of particles 0.3 μm or larger in diameter.
Protective goggles are needed to protect the infection from getting into your bloodstream via your eyes. You need good quality ventilated goggles to reduce fogging. Here is an example of medical grade goggles. Elite Medical Instruments 414 Chemical Splash Goggle with Indirect Ventilation and Adjustable Strap
Protective gloves are essential, don’t scrimp on these. Buy the best you can afford, they are a barrier between you and the infection. Nirtrile gloves are a popular choice. Nitrile Exam Gloves – Medical Grade
Plastic Sheeting and Duct Tape
Duct tape and plastic sheeting have many uses. In a pandemic situation, they can be used to seal off areas and create quarantined areas.
In a pandemic situation gloves, goggles and masks are not enough protection. You ideally need a suite to protect your body from becoming contaminated. DuPont Tyvek 400 TY127S Protective Coverall with Hood
Although not cheap if your budget will stretch to a decontamination shelter it would provide an extra defense against contamination. UltraTech 6005 Decon Deck Decon Shelter.
Personal Hygiene Items
Personal hygiene is important when attempting to stop or reduce the spread of an infectious disease. You will need to store, soap, antibacterial wipes, bleach, rubbing alcohol to name a few. You will also need items like garbage bags to dispose of waste and potentially infected items.
As a result of the above research, I am now developing my own plan for dealing with such a pandemic. I hope this article has been informative regarding a plague pandemic. Below are some additional links to relevant articles to help you to further your own research in this area.
Research Credits and Recommend Reading
Analysis: Antibiotic apocalypse
CDC Plague History
WHO – Plague Infographic
Avoiding the Black Plague Today
Black Death plague warning: Outbreak confirmed by World Health Organisation
Plague Helped End Roman Empire, DNA From Medieval Graveyard Suggests
Prepper Bits Prepper Resources Section