WHO monitoring new plague cases in China

Amid the worldwide growing coronavirus pandemic, China has notified WHO of a bubonic plague case in Inner Mongolia. After the outbreak of coronavirus in the city of Wuhan, the identification of the bubonic plague case poses a new threat to China and the world over.

Bubonic plague in China

The Plague is a disease that affects humans and other mammals. It is caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Humans usually get plague after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with plague. Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages, with the most infamous case being Black Death.

Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death. Presently, human plague infections continue to occur in rural areas in the western United States, but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia.

Instance of Bubonic Plague detected in China

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday it was monitoring a case of bubonic plague in China after being notified by the authorities in Beijing.

A herdsman in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region was confirmed at the weekend to have the bubonic plague.

Read more: Rich people’s reaction to the Corona pandemic same as against the plague

Two other cases were confirmed in Khovd province in neighbouring Mongolia last week involving brothers who had eaten marmot meat, China’s state news agency Xinhua said.

“Bubonic plague has been with us and is always with us, for centuries,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters at a virtual briefing.

“We are looking at the case numbers in China. It’s being well managed.

“At the moment, we are not considering it high-risk but we’re watching it, monitoring it carefully.”

She said the WHO was working in partnership with the Chinese and Mongolian authorities.

The UN health agency said it was notified by China on July 6 of a case of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia.

“Plague is rare, typically found in selected geographical areas across the globe where it is still endemic,” the agency said, adding that sporadic cases of plague have been reported in China over the last decade.

China faces a new threat after COVID-19

“Bubonic plague is the most common form and is transmitted between animals and humans through the bite of infected fleas and direct contact with carcases of infected small animals. It is not easily transmitted between people.”

Though the highly-contagious plague is rare in China and can be treated, at least five people have died from it since 2014, according to China’s National Health Commission.

The man infected in Inner Mongolia was in stable condition at a hospital in Bayannur, the city health commission said in a statement.

Read more: Mongolian couple dies of plague after eating raw marmot meat

Xinhua said that in neighbouring Mongolia, another suspected case, involving a 15-year-old boy who had a fever after eating a marmot hunted by a dog, was reported on Monday.

On Monday, Mongolia announced that it had lifted restrictions in Khovd Province after two cases of bubonic plague linked to the consumption of marmot meat were reported a week ago. Health officials said the patients’ conditions had improved, the Ikon.mn news site reported.

Cause for Concern: Bubonic Plague in China

Mortality rates for treated individuals range from 1 percent to 15 percent for bubonic plague to 40 percent for septicemic plague. In untreated victims, the rates rise to about 50 percent for bubonic and 100 percent for septicemic.

The bubonic plague, known as the “Black Death” in the Middle Ages, killed between 75 and 200 million people in the 14th century, and at least 30 to 50 million from the year 541 to 549.

According to the WHO website, the lung-based pneumonic plague is extremely contagious and “can trigger severe epidemics through person-to-person contact via droplets in the air”.

The plague can be fatal in up to 90 percent of people infected if not treated, primarily with several types of antibiotics.

Read more: Locust plague: Pakistan seeks Chinese help

China has vastly improved its detection and management of infectious diseases since the 2003 outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and the latest coronavirus pandemic, which was first reported in Wuhan in late 2019.

Plague cases are found in limited numbers across much of the world. About seven human cases are reported in the U.S. each year. Most happen in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, southern Oregon, western Nevada, and parts of California, according to a CDC map.
GVS News desk with additional input from AFP and other sources
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