Plague Infects Three In China


Safa Hameed and Bianka Balcazar

For several days this past November, 28 people from China were held in quarantine after three people contracted the plague, a deadly bacterial disease most commonly associated with the Black Death in medieval Europe.

It started after a hunter killed and ate a wild rabbit on the Inner Mongolian steppes and was infected with the bubonic plague. The 55-year-old man has come into contact with at least 28 people since, leading officials to put them into quarantine. Fortunately, the Chinese government says that none have shown symptoms or signs of the bacterial infection. However, days later two people were diagnosed with an even deadlier strand of the plague, known as pneumonic, and who were then transported to Beijing for further medical treatment. 

This is not the first time this has happened: in May, a Mongolian couple both died from the bubonic plague after eating raw kidney of a marmot, which local traditions speculate to be a health remedy. In 2014, China found itself sealing off a whole city in order to quarantine a block where a man died from the bubonic plague.

The plague is a form of infectious disease, caused by a type of bacteria known as Yersinia pestis. It can be spread by vector borne transmission, which includes contact with animals, such as rodents or fleas, and consumption, like in the case of the hunter. It can also be spread through direct contact or by being in area with a lot of infected people. The plague itself can be categorized into three types, with the most common being known as bubonic, followed by pneumonic and septicemic. The bubonic plague attacks the lymph nodes, septicemic attacks the blood, and pneumonic attacks the lungs. Usually a person starts out with the bubonic plague, which can then develop into the other types. All in all, it can be a fatal infection, with a mortality rate of 50 to 60 percent.

The plague can be combated with antibiotics and is usually the go-to treatment for anyone who is infected. In areas of high risk, vaccines can be distributed, but they are hard to come by. If contracted and treated within 24-hours, the infected has a higher chance of survival.

Furthermore, contracting the plague in this day and age is not unheard of. In the United States seven people annually become infected, while the rate is much higher in underdeveloped like Madagascar. While the yearly death toll is hard to keep track of because disease contraction is spontaneous, there were 3,248 cases reported worldwide, including 584 deaths, from 2010 to 2015. Fabio Sacno, who is a coordinator for the Chinese chapter of the World Health Organization, reassured that “the (Chinese) National Health Commission are implementing efforts to contain and treat the identified cases, and increasing surveillance.”