Written byShalini Ojha
A Chinese city in Inner Mongolia sounded an alert for the bubonic plague on Sunday at a time when the world is already grappling with coronavirus, whose outbreak also originated in China. The plague-prevention measures will remain imposed throughout 2020.
This happened after cases were reported from Bayannur in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, located northwest of China's capital Beijing.
Here are more details.
The rare but serious disease is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium. It is transmitted through fleas, that get infected mainly by rodents.
The hosts of this disease in Inner Mongolia are usually marmots, which live in rural areas.
This plague's outbreak initially happened in the Middle Ages. Named "Black Death," the disease had killed an estimated 50 million people in Europe alone.
More recently, the disease made an appearance between 2010 and 2015. The plague infected over 3,200 people in the time period, and killed 584. In 2017, more than 300 cases were reported during an outbreak in Madagascar.
As it turns out, it's difficult to declare that a person has contracted this disease as the symptoms are developed after 3-7 days. Moreover, the early signs make it easy to believe that the infected person has just gotten the flu.
However, the disease is characterized by swollen lymph nodes. An infected person also complains about fever, fatigue, chills, and muscle aches.
Talking of China, on July 1, two suspected cases of bubonic plague were reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency. The brothers, aged 27 and 17, lived in Khovd province and are reported to have eaten marmot meat.
Locals think of marmot meat and kidney as a remedy for good health, reports BBC.
As more cases emerged, the authorities issued a third-level alert.
According to the third-level alert, hunting and eating animals that may carry plague is prohibited. Locals have also been asked to report patients and alert the authorities about dead marmots.
Bayannur health authorities have also asked people to be extra cautious to stop human-to-human transmission.
"At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city," the authorities said.
However, some experts believe this plague won't turn into an epidemic, largely because a lot of information is available about the disease.
"Unlike in the 14th Century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted. We know how to prevent it. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics," Stanford Health Care's infectious disease expert said.
As far as the current crisis is concerned, coronavirus has killed 537,048 globally and infected 11,572,344. Though several countries are scrambling to develop a vaccine, it won't be available before next year. Meanwhile, WHO has warned that the pandemic is not nearing its climax.
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