New Delhi, July 06, 2020: China’s health authorities are on high alert after a suspected case of the infectious bubonic plague was reported Sunday from Inner Mongolia less than eight months after two cases of the same type of plague were reported from the same northern province.
In November last year, two cases of the more infectious pneumonic plague were also diagnosed in Beijing and in Inner Mongolia.
In the latest case, the Bayannur municipal health commission said in a press release late on Sunday night that the people’s hospital in Urad Middle Banner (an administrative division in China) reported the suspected bubonic plague case in local herdsman on Saturday.
The patient has been isolated and under treatment in a local hospital; he is said to be stable.
Local authorities in Bayannur issued a third-level warning for plague prevention and control that will last till the end of 2020, the commission was quoted by the official news agency, Xinhua, as saying.
The commission issued an advisory for residents in the area to prevent people-to-people infection including not to hunt and eat animals that could cause plague infections.
It asked the public to “report any findings of killed or dead marmots and other animals, and report suspected plague cases, high fever patients with unknown reasons and patients dying from sudden deaths”.
There are three types of plague, a bacterial infection caused by Yersinia pestis: septicemic, which spreads in the blood; bubonic, which affects the lymph nodes; and pneumonic, which affects the lungs.
The last two types were reported in Inner Mongolia and in Beijing in November, 2019.
There are large areas of natural plague foci in Inner Mongolia where contact with plague-infected animals such as rats or hares might result in human infection, Chinese health authorities had said earlier.
According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the bubonic plague spreads through fleas hosted by infected animals, like rodents — it wiped out millions in medieval Europe before spreading to Asia and Africa in the 14th century — pneumonic plague spreads through cough droplets. Symptoms include persistent high fever, coughing with blood, and chest pain.
Bubonic plague is more common, but the latter is more dangerous.
In 2014, China had locked down the city of Yumen, home to over 30,000 people, in the northwestern province of Gansu, after a person died of bubonic plague; 151 people were quarantined.
According to China’s national health commission (NHC), a total of five people have died from the plague between 2014 and September 2019. A Reuters report on Sunday said from 2009 to 2018, China reported 26 cases and 11 deaths.
The most recent outbreak of pneumonic plague happened in Madagascar in 2017, with over 2300 confirmed cases and 202 deaths, according to the WHO.