• Friday, Oct 02, 2020
  • Last Update : 12:21 am

China seals off village after bubonic plague death

  • Published at 03:51 pm August 10th, 2020
This Centers For Disease Control (CDC) file image obtained 15 January, 2003, shows the bubonic plague bacteria taken from a patient <strong>AFP</strong>
This Centers For Disease Control (CDC) file image obtained 15 January, 2003, shows the bubonic plague bacteria taken from a patient AFP

WHO says it is ‘carefully monitoring’ the case, but says that it is ‘not high risk’

A village in China has been sealed off after a resident died from bubonic plague, authorities in the country have said.

Daily disinfection of homes has been ordered in Suji Xincun, a tiny settlement in the Inner Mongolia region, the Independent reported.

It has not been revealed how the villager came to have contracted the disease, but health officials in the nearby city of Baotou said no one else has yet tested positive for it.

Cases of plague are not uncommon in China, although outbreaks have become increasingly rare. From 2009 to 2018, China reported 26 cases and 11 deaths.

The patient was confirmed to have bubonic plague, the People's Daily reported, citing an announcement from the health committee of the Bayan Nur city. 

The bubonic plague, known as the "Black Death" in the Middle Ages, is a highly infectious and often fatal disease that is spread mostly by rodents.

The committee issued a third-level alert, the second lowest in a four-level system, effective Friday to the end of 2020 to prevent the spread of the disease, the People's Daily reported.

This marks the second death of a plague patient reported this month in the Inner Mongolia region.

On Thursday, authorities in Baotou city, which is adjacent to Bayan Nur city, reported that a patient with an "intestinal-type plague" died of circulatory system failure.

Bayan Nur authorities have locked down the area where the dead patient lived and quarantined seven close contacts of the patient, who have tested negative for the disease so far and taken preventive medicines. 

WHO says it is "carefully monitoring" the case of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia region, but says that it is "not high risk."

The bubonic plague was once the world's most feared disease, but can now be easily treated.

Spokeswoman Margaret Harris said: "Bubonic plague has been with us and is always with us, for centuries. We are looking at the case numbers in China. It's being well managed.

"At the moment, we are not considering it high risk but we're watching it, monitoring it carefully."

What is bubonic plague?

Bubonic plague, caused by bacterial infection, was responsible for one of the deadliest epidemics in human history - the Black Death - which killed about 50 million people across Africa, Asia and Europe in the 14th Century.

There have been a handful of large outbreaks since. It killed about a fifth of London's population during the Great Plague of 1665, while more than 12 million died in outbreaks during the 19th Century in China and India.

But nowadays it can be treated by antibiotics. Left untreated, the disease - which is typically transmitted from animals to humans by fleas - has a 30%-60% fatality rate.

Symptoms of the plague include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin.

Bubonic cases are rare, but there are still a few flare-ups of the disease from time to time.

Madagascar saw more than 300 cases during an outbreak in 2017. However, a study in medical journal The Lancet found fewer than 30 people died.

However, it's unlikely any cases will lead to an epidemic.

"Unlike in the 14th Century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr Shanti Kappagoda, an infectious diseases doctor at Stanford Health Care, told news site Heathline. 

"We know how to prevent it."

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