Plague Found in China, City of Yumen Sealed Off


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Chinese state media reported Tuesday that the city of Yumen has been sealed off since last week, after a 38-year-old man died of bubonic plague.

Yumen, which has a population of roughly 30,000, is situated in the northwestern province of Gansu, and is presently surrounded by police at roadblocks. No residents are allowed to leave the established perimeter, and travelers are being forced to take detours, according to China Central Television (CCTV).

CCTV reported that Yumen "has enough rice, flour and oil to supply all its residents for up to one month." China Daily newspaper revealed that "four quarantine sectors" have been set up in Yumen, where 151 people are being held for observation. CCTV added that "local residents and those in quarantine are all in stable condition." No new plague cases have been reported in the city.

The sole plague fatality in Yumen occurred after a man came into contact with a dead marmot. Marmots are similar to squirrels, though larger, and can carry plague-infected fleas in their fur.

Bubonic plague is a bacterial infection of the lymphatic system, usually resulting from the bite of an infected rat flea, scientifically known as Xenopsylla cheopis. Plague symptoms appear suddenly, usually two to five days after exposure, and symptoms include general malaise, chills, high fever, muscle cramps, a painful lymph gland swelling called a bubo, seizures and gangrene.

Roughly two-thirds of untreated plague cases result in death, though several types of antibiotics are effective in treating the infection, and when administered can cut the mortality rate to 1-15%. According to the U.S. Centers Centers of Disease Control, "human plague infections continue to occur in the western United States, but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia."

Here is a clip documenting a case of domestic plague that a man contracted in Oregon:

In China, plague is classified as a Class A infectious disease, the "most serious under China's Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases," according to the Xinhua news agency.

Once known as the "Black Death," bubonic plague ravaged Europe in the 14th century, leaving an estimated 25 million dead, or roughly 30–60% of the population.

Image via Wikimedia Commons