Plague is a disease well-known to humankind. Throughout history, in a series of epidemics, plague has claimed the lives of millions the world over. Human plague in the United States occurs as mostly scattered cases in rural areas effecting 10 to 20 persons each year. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports 1,000 to 3,000 cases every year.
Conditions that once facilitated the rampant spread of plague have been remedied in much of the world, making epidemics unlikely. However, a bioterrorist release of plague could result in a rapid spread of the pneumonic form of the disease, which could have devastating consequences.