Caixin
Jul 06, 2020 06:10 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Bubonic Plague Case Sparks Health Alert in North China

North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region raised its emergency threat level Sunday following a confirmed case of bubonic plague. Photo: IC Photo
North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region raised its emergency threat level Sunday following a confirmed case of bubonic plague. Photo: IC Photo

A city in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region issued a health warning Sunday after a livestock herder contracted bubonic plague.

The health commission of Bayan Nur announced a level three emergency, the second-lowest in a four-tier system. It ordered residents in the city of half a million people to stop hunting, skinning or transporting rodents and other animals known to carry plague, to report fevers of unknown causes, and to report sightings of dead marmots.

The patient, who had recently visited an area known to be susceptible to the disease, has been quarantined at Urad Middle Banner hospital in Bayan Nur and is in stable condition, the local health commission said.

Plague infections are rare in China but occasionally occur in northern and western regions. The country recorded five plague cases last year, one of which was fatal, according to the National Health Commission.

Four people in Inner Mongolia were diagnosed with the disease in November, two of whom had the more serious pneumonic plague.

At the time, authorities headed off further cases by ramping up epidemic early-warning systems, medical screenings, and transportation inspections.

While the four people infected in Inner Mongolia survived, a separate patient in northwestern Gansu province died of the illness.

Previous plague outbreaks in China include one in northwestern Gansu province in 2014 and another in southwestern Yunnan province in 2005. They killed three and two people, respectively.

Plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which dwells in fleas and rodents. The disease has two main types, bubonic and pneumonic.

It mainly transmits through flea bites, contact with bodily fluids and breathing in the respiratory droplets of a person with pneumonic plague.

Known during the Middle Ages as “Black Death,” bubonic plague causes swollen, painful lymph nodes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it kills 30% to 60% of people it infects.

Pneumonic plague primarily affects the lungs. It can be contagious and is always fatal if left untreated, according to the WHO.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

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