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Black Plague Case Confirmed in China

China’s health reputation has taken a turn for the worst as several cases of ‘bubonic plague’ have been confirmed. According to the BBC, authorities are on high alert after a case was confirmed in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia.

The patient, a pastor, was was admitted to a hospital in Bayannur, about 860 kilometres northwest of Beijing.  He is in quarantine and his condition is said to be stable although it is not known how he came into contact with the disease.  A second suspicious case involves a 15-year-old girl. It is thought that she was infected through eating ‘groundhog’ which had been killed by a hunting dog.

In view of the Covid-19 disaster, China quickly issued a level 3 alert, which will remain in place until the end of the year as a way to control any further outbreaks.  This means there is now a ban on hunting, and the consumption of animals that could pass the disease to humans, which includes groundhogs.  Furthermore, the population has been asked to report any sick or dying rodents. The plague is transmitted through infected flea bites but if well managed, does not ‘pose a threat!’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it is closely monitoring the outbreak of bubonic plague in China and Mongolia, emphasising that the situation does not pose a major threat and is being “well managed.”  In a statement, WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said “At the moment, we do not consider it to be of high risk, but we are closely watching the situation in partnership with the Chinese and Mongolian authorities.”

However, several cases of bubonic plague have been reported in China over recent days and not just in Bayannur, Northern Mongolia.  Two siblings from Mongolia’s Khovd province have also been confirmed as having the virus which the authorities claim to have come from eating infected groundhog meat.  Both brothers have been quarantines as have some 150 people who came into contact with them.

The WHO emphasises that bubonic plague is “rare” and that it is generally found in certain geographical areas of the globe. In 2013, the World Health Organisation stated that between 1,000 – 3,000 people die from bubonic plague every year.  However, the use of antibiotics and better living standards have helped control the disease, and survival chances are good.

Samantha Gannon

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