Bubonic Plague Cases Confirmed in China

Taylor Stephan | | Industry NewsIndustry News
black death
A bubonic plague smear taken from a plague-infected patient. Photo Credit: BBC

We’re only halfway through the year, but 2020 has felt like an endless roller coaster ride. Most notably, we point to the current Coronavirus pandemic, which has caused our daily lives to change drastically and almost the entire world to grind to a halt. Between unemployment, travel restrictions, health uncertainty, economic distress, and more, we’ve seen and experienced more than we’re used to, but the Universe always has something up its sleeve.

China has confirmed two cases of the bubonic plague as of July 6, 2020. The two cases were confirmed in the Inner Mongolian town of Bayannur in Northern China. One case is believed to be caused by exposure to a dead Tarbagan Marmot that is native to the area and a local delicacy. This specific marmot has caused plague epidemics before, most recently in 1911 in Northern China where around 63,000 died. The patient is being hospitalized as a precaution and is in stable condition. It is currently unknown how the other patient contracted the plague, and they are quarantining as a precaution as well.

Inner Mongolia
The Tarbagan Marmot, a local delicacy in the region. Photo Credit: IFL

Most of us have likely heard of the bubonic plague from middle school history class and think of it as ancient history. The most well-known plague is the Black Death that occurred in the 1500s and killed an estimated 50 million people across Europe, Asia, and Africa. There have been a few large-scale flare-ups following the Black Death, such as the Great Plague in London in 1665 and a plague that killed roughly 12 million people across China and India in the 19th century. However, since then there have mainly been minor flare-ups, including a single diagnosed case in the U.S as recently as 2018.

The bubonic plague is caused by bacteria entering your body, usually spread through flea bites or exposure to dead plague-infected animals. Common signs of the plague include flu-like symptoms such as nausea, fever, and vomiting, as well as swollen lymph nodes. Early detection is key, and with proper treatment through antibiotics, patients usually make a full recovery.

“Unlike the 14th Century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted. We know ho to prevent it. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics.”

– Dr. Shanti Kappagoda, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford Health Care.

Inner Mongolia
Location of the latest confirmed patients in Bayannur, Inner Mongolia, Northern China. Photo Credit: KWWL

Luckily, the progression of modern medicine has prevented large scale bubonic plague epidemics. Scientists don’t believe that these recent cases will sweep the World like the current Coronavirus pandemic, but instead will stay more localized to the Inner Mongolian region. As a precaution, China is closing tourist sites in the area, but it is expected that both patients will make a full recovery.

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