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Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Communicable  Diseases Subjects A-Z



Sexually Transmitted Diseases


Disease Reporting


Plague is usually acquired from the bites of fleas infected with the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Fleas become infected by feeding on rodents, such as chipmunks, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, mice, and other mammals that are infected with the Yersinia pestis bacterium. These fleas can then transmit the bacteria when they subsequently bite humans. Less commonly, plague can be acquired from being bitten or scratched by infected animals or by handling carcasses of animals (often rodents or rabbits) that had been infected. Persons can also become infected by inhaling respiratory droplets from a coughing person who has plague pneumonia. Although a handful of people in the western USA become infected each year, plague has never been reported in Wisconsin

The typical sign of the most common form of human plague is a swollen and very tender lymph node, accompanied by pain. The swollen node is called a "bubo" (hence the term "bubonic plague"). Besides the swollen lymph node, bubonic plague symptoms include fever, chills, headache, and extreme exhaustion. A person usually becomes ill with bubonic plague 2-6 days after being infected. When bubonic plague is left untreated, plague bacteria invade the bloodstream. When plague bacteria multiply in the bloodstream, they spread rapidly throughout the body and cause a severe and often fatal condition. The other form of human plague is called pneumonic plague. This is an infection of the lungs with the plague bacterium, causing a very severe respiratory illness.

General information

This is a Wisconsin disease surveillance category I disease:
Report IMMEDIATELY by TELEPHONE to the patient's local public health department upon identification of a confirmed or suspected case. The local health department shall then notify the state epidemiologist immediately of any confirmed or suspected cases. Submit a case report within 24 hours submit a case report electronically through the Wisconsin Electronic Surveillance System (WEDSS), by mail or fax using an Acute and Communicable Disease case report F44151 or by other means. 
Information on communicable disease reporting

Plague fact sheet - Hmong - Spanish  

Information for health professionals

Wisconsin case reporting and public health follow-up guidelines: Plague EpiNet
CDC Plague (Exit DHS)    
Infectious Disease Society of America (Exit DHS)    


Wisconsin Local Health Departments - Regional offices - Tribal agencies

Last Revised: March 04, 2014