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The plague appeared in three forms: bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic. These infections were caused by an organism (bacillus) which was present primarily in rats (but occurred in other rodents as well) and could be transmitted by flea bite to humans. The pneumonic plague could be spread from human to human through cough droplets.
The main characteristic of the pneumonic plague an infection of the lungs. Some symptoms included cough, bloody sputum and a difficulty in breathing.
See also: Black Death