In China bubonic plague has forced officials to quarantine parts of the city of Yumen, which is located in the northwestern portion of the country. A 38-year-old man in that city died of bubonic plague last week. He had reportedly been in contact with a dead marmot, which is a type of squirrel-like rodent.
Close to 100,000 people have been placed under the city’s quarantine and 151 people who were in contact with the victim have been placed in isolation. So far no one else has exhibited any symptoms of bubonic plague.
The Xinhua news agency is reporting that the victim apparently chopped up the dead marmot and fed it to his dog. He later developed a fever and died on July 16th at a local hospital.
Bubonic plague is typically spread through a bite from an infected flea. The World Health Organization says these fleas live on rodents and other animals and that without immediate treatment the disease kills more than half of those inflicted.
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Even in China bubonic plague is rare. It is still present, however, in rural areas. The World Health Organization reports that outbreaks have been rare in recent years, and most have happened in remote rural areas of the west. China’s state broadcaster said there were twelve diagnosed cases and three deaths in the province of Qinghai back in 2009, and only one in Sichuan in 2012.
Bubonic plague is always associated with the Black Death that occurred in the 14th century, when it wiped out roughly half of the Chinese population. In the 19th century another severe outbreak known as the Modern Plague spread from China to Hong Kong and many port cities in between. Ten million died.
As with this case in China, bubonic plague causes panic among those who aren’t aware there is now treatment for the disease. With the present quarantine and people in isolation, this one case may in fact be the only one diagnosed.
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