Difference Between Pneumonic Plague and Bubonic Plague

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Pneumonic Plague and Bubonic Plague

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The bacterium Yersinia pestis causes plague, an infectious illness. A flea, which functions as a vector for many illnesses, transports the bacteria from deceased animals. When this flea bites an animal or a human, the bacteria is regurgitated into the animal's or human's blood. Once the virus enters the animal's bloodstream, it can cause localised or systemic illnesses. For generations, the phrase "plague" has instilled terror in the minds of people, and for good cause. Fleas transmit the bubonic plague to people and animals. The lymph nodes of an infected person are affected by bubonic plague. The most dangerous form of plague is pneumonic plague, which attacks the lungs. 

Bubonic plague can progress and spread to the lungs, resulting in pneumonic plague, a more severe form of plague. The dangerous form of plague is sometimes known as lung-based plague. The sufferer vomited, had severe headaches, a high temperature, black patches, boils, and coughed up blood as a result of the Bubonic Plague. The victims' lungs and respiratory systems will be afflicted with the pneumonic plague. It may cause bright crimson blood to flow from the victim's lungs and out of their mouth.

During the Middle Ages, the plague killed millions of people across Europe. Antibiotics are now effective in treating plague. The condition can cause serious sickness or death if not treated promptly. Human plague infections are still occurring in the western United States, but many more instances are occurring in Africa and Asia.

Pneumonic Plague vs. Bubonic Plague

The primary distinction between Pneumonic and Bubonic plague is the organ system and region affected by both diseases. When Yersinia pestis attacks the lungs, it causes pneumonic plague. This disease can spread from person to person via the air. Yersinia pestis is suspended in a person's respiratory droplets. If a person with bubonic or septicaemic plague goes untreated, the germs can migrate to the lungs and cause pneumonic plague. Bubonic plague is spread when an infected flea bites a person or when pestis-contaminated items enter through a skin breach. Patients have swelling, painful lymph nodes as well as weakness. Bubonic plague is not transmitted from person to person, another key distinction.

The pneumonic plague is one of three forms of plagues that induce a severe illness in the lungs. It is a deadly and extremely contagious illness. Another differential is the bite. When the infections are confined in the lymph glands and ducts, it is called bubonic plague; when such organisms are localised and cause infection in the lungs, it is called pneumonic plague. These illnesses are of many forms and arise in the human body for a variety of causes.

Difference Between Pneumonic Plague and Bubonic Plague in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Pneumonic Plague Bubonic Plague
Definition The pneumonic plague is one of three forms of plagues that induce a severe illness in the lungs. The bubonic plague is one of three forms of plagues produced by fleas that may be found on numerous animals.
Symptoms Fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, bloody cough, etc Fever, chills, discomfort in the lymph node region, etc
Agent of Cause Yersinia Pestis Yersinia Pestis
Affected Organ System Respiratory System Lymphatic System
Lymph nodes Absent Present
Ecchymosis Absent Present
Classification Primary and Secondary One Type
Swollen Lymph Glands No No
Typical Locations Lungs Under the arms, Groin
Virulence High Lower compared Pneumonic Plague

What is Pneumonic Plague?

Pneumonic plague is the most severe form of plague, in which germs invade the lungs and cause pneumonia. It is caught by inhaling the bacterium or developing when bubonic or septicaemic plague spreads to the lungs. Pneumonia can result in respiratory failure as well as shock. The pneumonic plague is the least common of the three types of plague. Pneumonic plague is the most severe form of illness and the only one that can be transmitted from person to person. Secondary and primary pneumonic plagues exist, both of which are commonly lethal and possibly communicable to close contacts. The most prevalent form is secondary pneumonic plague, which is caused by the hematogenous spread of germs from a bubo or other source.

Antibiotics such as gentamicin, doxycycline, ciprofloxacin, and levofloxacin are used in the treatment of plague. Early antibiotic therapy is critical since the untreated plague, particularly the pneumonic variant, is nearly invariably lethal. Antibiotics such as streptomycin, tetracycline, and chloramphenicol can be prescribed by doctors. Wearing a surgical mask, for example, can keep one safe from such an illness. Patients with probable pneumonic plague should be handled in isolation with respiratory droplet precautions to prevent person-to-person transmission. There is no vaccination available to protect against pneumonic plague. Antibiotics are used to keep people who have been exposed to pneumonic plague healthy. Pneumonic plague is a highly contagious type of plague with an incubation period ranging from a few hours to several days. The patient may develop severe pneumonia symptoms as soon as one day after inhalation and may die the next day. The bacteria that cause pneumonic plague are extremely contagious. People who have been diagnosed with plague should be hospitalised and medically isolated so that the bacterium does not spread further.

Other bacterial illnesses that can be differentiated include tularemia, mycoplasma pneumonia or other community-acquired bacterial pneumonia, and Legionnaires' disease. In the United States, the last occurrence of person-to-person respiratory transmission occurred in Los Angeles in 1924. This strain of the illness develops quickly, spreads readily from person to person, and is significantly more lethal, killing 100% of those who do not receive proper antibiotics immediately after exposure. To lessen the chance of mortality, suitable drugs must be administered to the patient within the first 24 hours after seeing symptoms.

What is Bubonic Plague?

The Bubonic plague is another form of the disease. It affects the human body's lymphatic system, causing lymph nodes, commonly known as buboes, to form on the body. Bubonic plague is unquestionably caused by the bite of the flea Xenopsylla cheopis, which carries Yersinia in its stomach. Flu-like symptoms such as fever, vomiting, and headaches appear three to seven days after exposure. This is the most typical kind of Plague. The person will develop fever, chills, weakness, and enlarged lymph nodes within a few days to a week. These are known as buboes. Untreated bubonic plague can potentially proceed to a lung infection, resulting in pneumonic plague.  All varieties of plague can lead to death if victims are not treated with particular antibiotics. These lymph nodes are most commonly found in the underarm or groin region. These lymph nodes produce excruciating discomfort. Bubonic plague is not transmitted from person to person. Bubonic plague is a disease that is mostly transmitted to people by infected fleas that travel on rodents. The Black Death, as it was known throughout the Middle Ages, killed millions of Europeans. Yersinia pestis may infect both people and animals and is mostly transmitted by fleas.

Lymph glands swell all across the body, but especially in the groynes, armpits, and neck. The lymph nodes are uncomfortable and frequently rupture. A plague can also damage the lungs, producing coughing, chest discomfort, and breathing difficulties. Bacteria can also enter the circulation and produce septicaemia or sepsis, which can result in tissue damage, organ failure, and death. During the fourteenth century, the number of individuals killed by the bubonic plague surpassed 25 million. Rats sailed on ships, bringing fleas and disease with them. The occurrence of acral gangrene on the fingers, toes, lips, and at the ends of the upper and lower extremities is a distinguishing hallmark of the illness. Gangrene causes these regions to become blue or black, and necrosis develops. People get plague when they are bitten by a flea infected with the plague bacterium, get bites or scratches from infected animals, or come into touch with contaminated tissues or any animal that was responsible for the epidemic, such as rats.

Cats, in particular, are susceptible to plague and can become infected by eating diseased rodents. Symptoms of septicemic plague include blackened flesh from gangrene, which frequently affects the fingers or toes, as well as irregular bleeding. People suffering from pneumonic plague may have difficulty breathing and cough up blood. Other symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscular pains, and weariness, in addition to the sensitive, swollen lymph nodes, which can be as big as an egg. Bacteria can also enter the circulation and produce septicaemia or sepsis, which can result in tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Antibiotics can treat and cure the bubonic plague. If you have bubonic plague, you will be hospitalised and given antibiotics. If not treated, bubonic plague can be lethal. It has the potential to spread illness throughout the body. If a patient is not treated with pharmaceuticals, death can occur within days; however, if suitable medications are administered, the chance of mortality is greatly reduced. The bubonic plague can be diagnosed in a variety of ways. It is possible to identify it by examining the fluid from the lump nodes or even the blood. The sputum can also be tested. However, drugs like antibiotics can be used to treat the plague.

The Byzantine Empire was hit by the first bubonic plague, which occurred between 541 and 767. A historical perspective can assist to appreciate how people's misunderstanding about the genesis of a disease, as well as the terror associated with societal stigma and prejudice, hampered public health attempts to stop the spread of a pandemic. The bubonic plague had been present in England for centuries since the second pandemic, but the epidemic in 1665 was the deadliest since the "black death" in 1348. The bubonic plague wreaked havoc in several places, while it lingered in London. It killed around 100.000 persons in England between 1665 and 1666.

Difference Between Pneumonic Plague and Bubonic Plague in Points

  • The pneumonic plague is not transmitted by vectors. Bubonic plague, on the other hand, is a vector-borne illness.
  • Contact with a person who is already infected with the plague or with the bacteria "Yersinia pestis" can produce pneumonic plague. Bubonic plague, on the other hand, is induced by a flea bite on a specific animal or contact with the fluid contained in the deceased animal.
  • During the pneumonic plague, ecchymosis does not develop. Ecchymosis, on the other hand, does develop during the bubonic plague.
  • The virulence of the pneumonic plague is higher than that of the bubonic plague.
  • Swollen lymph nodes do not present in the human body during the pneumonic plague. Swollen lymph nodes, on the other hand, do develop in the human body during the bubonic plague.
  • Coughing up blood, headache, fever, trouble breathing, and other symptoms of the pneumonic plague the symptoms of the bubonic plague, on the other hand, include fever, headaches, vomiting blood, convulsions, and so on.


Both types of plague are extremely contagious and hazardous to human health, with long-term consequences. Many individuals have perished as a result of these plagues because they did not receive adequate treatment. Pneumonic plague is infectious and spreads from person to person. It is highly communicable in certain environmental circumstances, such as congestion and chilly temperatures. Such epidemics can be managed thanks to drugs, greater sanitation, and better living circumstances. A bubonic plague epidemic in China has fueled fears that the "Black Death" may make a dramatic comeback. Because of drugs, the sickness isn't nearly as lethal as it formerly was. People who have had direct, close contact with sick individuals will be protected by antibiotic therapy for 7 days.

There have been three major world pandemics of plague recorded, in 541, 1347, and 1894 CE, each of which caused widespread devastation to humans and animals across nations and continents. People must follow safety precautions and procedures to stay healthy. Antibiotics must be administered as soon as possible. If left untreated, the condition is frequently fatal. Early detection can save lives by performing laboratory testing on blood and other bodily materials. The plague is still present in many places of the world. There have been outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar in recent years.



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"Difference Between Pneumonic Plague and Bubonic Plague." Diffzy.com, 2023. Tue. 06 Jun. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-pneumonic-plague-and-bubonic-plague-849>.

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