Authorities in China are stepping up precautions, issuing a Level 3 Alert, after a city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region confirmed one case of bubonic plague and are investigating a second case.
A herdsman who lives in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region is quarantined and in stable condition after being diagnosed with bubonic plague, the BBC reported, citing a report by China’s Global Times.
In the report, officials also stated they are investigating a second suspected case of the disease which involves a 15-year-old girl that had been in contact with a marmot hunted by a dog.
Officials issued a Level 3 Alert which has been extended to the end of the year. Under a Level 3 Alert, hunting and eating of animals that potentially could carry plague is forbidden.
One of the deadliest epidemics in human history was the Black Death that swept through Asia, Europe, and Africa in the 14th century and killed an estimated 50 million people – a result of the plague. However, this once-feared disease can be treated with antibiotics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Plague is an infectious disease that affects rodents, certain other animals, and humans. It is caused by a type of bacteria that is found in many areas of the world, including the United States.
There are different forms of the plague and the three that are typically spread through the route of infection are bubonic plague, septicemic plague, and pneumonic plague.
Bubonic plague is typically spread from the bite of an infected flea. The bacteria multiply in the lymph node closest to where the bacteria entered the human body.
According to the CDC, if the patient is not treated with appropriate antibiotics, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body. Left untreated, the plague has a 30-60% fatality rate.
According to the CDC, symptoms are a sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness, and one or more swollen, tender, and painful lymph nodes (called buboes).
While the first human, patient zero, usually contracts bubonic plague through a flea bite or eating contaminated meat, once a human is infected, that person can later develop pneumonic plague when the disease spreads to the lungs.
At that point, an infected person can spread plague bacteria into the air through cough droplets. An uninfected person breathing in bacteria-containing droplets can then contract pneumonic plague.
Epidemics of bubonic plague are rare. However, they do occur. In 2017, more than 300 people in Madagascar contracted the infection. Due to quick treatment, less than 30 people died.
In May 2019, two people in Mongolia died from the plague which they contracted from eating raw marmot meat.
Because modern medicine is aware of bubonic plague symptoms, as well as has the effective antibiotics to combat it, with rapid action, bubonic plague cases are usually contained quickly before they can lead to a wider spread among the population.