Bubonic plague death prompts China to seal off Inner Mongolia village

Click to play video 'WHO says bubonic plague outbreak in China is being ‘well-managed’' WHO says bubonic plague outbreak in China is being ‘well-managed’
A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the organization did not consider an apparent outbreak of the bubonic plague in China as high risk, saying it's being "well managed." (July 2020)

China has sealed off an Inner Mongolian village after a resident died from the bubonic plague, according to a statement by the municipal health authorities.

The death was reported to the Baotou Municipal Health Commission on Sunday, reads the statement, and the victim was confirmed to have bubonic plague on Thursday. The unidentified patient ultimately died of circulatory system failure.

The plague is a disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis. The bacteria is transmitted through flea bites and infected animals, usually small mammals like rodents. A human can become infected by the bite of an infected flea, either through direct contact with an infected animal or by inhaling infected respiratory droplets.

Read more: Bubonic plague is nothing new, nor is it a risk to Canadians

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The disease comes in three forms: pneumonic, which affects the lungs; bubonic, which affects the lymph nodes; and septicemic, which affects the blood.

The bubonic plague is the most common form, according to the World Health Organization. Patients typically develop fever, headache, chills, weakness and one or more swollen and painful lymph nodes, called buboes, which tend to be a hallmark sign of the disease.

While the health commission confirmed the type of plague that claimed the victim’s life, it wasn’t indicated how the person contracted the disease.

Suji Xincun village, where the person died, was immediately sealed off, and daily disinfection of homes was ordered.

A bit of good news: all people the victim is known to have been in contact with have so far tested negative for the disease, and no one else in the village appears to have contracted it.

“The deceased’s residence and surrounding farmers’ residences were completely (cleaned0 every day, and flea and rodent eradication, environmental sanitation and remediation were carried out in and around Suji New Village,” reads the official statement (via Google Translate). “At present, all villagers in Suji Xincun Village have no abnormalities such as fever, and the plague nucleic acid PCR test results are all negative.”

Read more: Teenager dies of bubonic plague after eating marmot in Mongolia

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The Damao Banner district in Mongolia, where Suji Xincun is located, is currently under a “Level III” stage emergency until the end of 2020.

Under Level III, “it is necessary to strictly follow the requirements of the ‘three nos and three reports’ for plague prevention and control,” reads the statement.

“Minimize contact with wild animals when travelling, and do not hunt, feed or carry wild animals without authorization. At the same time, prevent flea bites. Field workers must raise their awareness of plague prevention and strengthen personal protective measures. The general public must rationally understand and deal with the plague epidemic in a scientific manner, and do not believe in or spread rumours.”

In early July, two Mongolians were infected with the bubonic plague after eating marmot meat. A teenager later died of the disease.

Read more: 2 people infected with bubonic plague after eating marmot meat in Mongolia

Last year, a Mongolian couple died of the plague after eating raw marmot kidney in the Bayan-Ulgii province, which borders Russia and China.

Although plague has been responsible for widespread pandemics throughout history, including the Black Death, which killed more than 50 million people in Europe during the 14th century, today it can be easily treated with antibiotics and the use of standard preventative measures, says the WHO.

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Plague is found on all continents except Oceania, but most human cases since the ’90s have occurred in Africa. Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Peru are the three most endemic countries.

From 2010 to 2015, there were 3,248 cases of plague, including 584 deaths, according to the WHO.

With files from Meaghan Wray & Global News’ Rachael D’Amore