Yes, this is the same Black Death that swept through Europe in the 14th century, killing an estimated 25 million people. But a small number of cases of bubonic or septicaemic plague pop up around the world each year. Caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, the plague is transmitted via flea bites or contact with infected rodents or dead animals, and causes fever, weakness and excruciatingly swollen lymph nodes. Septicaemic plague also causes a blood infection, making skin and tissue turn black and die. Cases are rare today because sanitation and hygiene are so much better than they were in medieval times. If caught early, antibiotics are effective, but if left untreated, the plague has a mortality rate of 30 to 60 per cent – and as high as 100 per cent for pneumonic plague.
How dangerous can a cough be? Extremely. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It starts out like a traditional cold but then leads to a cough so severe that it causes vomiting, a red or blue face, and extreme fatigue. It is characterised by a ‘whoop’ sound as the person afflicted with it gasps for air. Babies under two months old are at the most risk of dying from it because they are too young to be vaccinated. Doctors recommend that pregnant women get a booster shot along with anyone else who will be in close contact with an infant – such as grandparents and caregivers – since the vaccine’s effectiveness may have worn off over time.
This highly contagious disease is spread through the air or by direct contact with someone who has it, and people can infect others unknowingly for up to four days before the tell-tale, full-body rash appears. In addition to the rash, symptoms include a high fever, a sore throat, red eyes and white bumps in the mouth; complications can include deafness, brain damage and death, especially in very young children.