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China’s Inner Mongolia reports suspected cases of bubonic plague: Here is all you need to know about ‘Black Death’ plague

The Black Death, also known as the Pestilence and the Great Mortality, was one of the most fatal pandemics recorded in human history. Estimated to have killed 75-200 million people in the world, most notably in Eurasia and North Africa, the pandemic is believed to have rampaged in the Medieval times from 1346 to 1353.

Even as the raging coronavirus gallops through the world, authorities in China’s Inner Mongolia have sounded an alert after the region reported a suspected case of the bubonic plague, the disease that had caused the Black Death pandemic. According to the reports, Bayannur, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, called for a Level III warning of plague prevention and control.

The Level III warning outlaws the hunting and eating of animals that could carry plague and calls on the public to report suspected cases. The Xinhua News Agency stated that the warning will stay in place until the end of the year.

The case was first reported by the state-run Xinhua News Agency on July 1 which said that the lab results of two suspected cases of bubonic plague from Khovd Province of Western Mongolia came out positive. Two brothers, one a 27-year-old one and the other 17-year-old have been confirmed of being infected by the pestilence. They both had consumed marmot meat, prompting Health officials to issue an advisory against the consumption of marmot meat. Recently, a herdsman in the Inner Mongolia region was also confirmed to have been suffering from the bubonic plague

In addition to raising an alert, the Bayannur health authorities have also stepped up the measures to avert the spread of the plague asking people to take extra precautions to reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission and to prevent hunting or eating animals that can cause infection.

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“At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly,” the local health authority said, according to state-run newspaper China Daily.

What is a plague and how are humans affected by it?

Plague is a highly contagious disease that is caused by Yersinia pestis bacteria and transmitted through flea bites and infected animals. The plague is spread by a zoonotic bacteria that is usually found in small mammals and their fleas, with the symptoms of the disease appearing after an incubation period of one to seven days. The malady typically spreads from bites of fleas that have fed upon infected creatures like mice, rats, rabbits and squirrels.

What is Black Death?

The Black Death, also known as the Pestilence and the Great Mortality, was one of the most fatal pandemics recorded in human history. Estimated to have killed 75-200 million people in the world, most notably in Eurasia and North Africa, the pandemic is believed to have rampaged in the Medieval times from 1346 to 1353.

The pandemic was believed to have originated somewhere in the central Asia before sweeping through Europe and North Africa in the middle of 14th century. While the antibiotics can treat the disease now, during the medieval times, the epidemic wreaked havoc, killing healthy people overnight and causing a great social, political and religious upheaval.

What are the different forms of the plague?

There are three types of plague—Bubonic, Septicemic and Pneumonic plague.

The bubonic plague causes painful inflammation of lymph nodes, along with fever, chills and coughing. This form of plague is generally caused by an infected flea bite. The bacteria breeds in the lymph node closest to where the bacteria entered the body. If the patient is not treated with appropriate antibiotics, the pathogen can spread to other parts of the body, eventually resulting in a fatality.

Marmot behind the cause of bubonic plague in China?

Marmots, a type of large ground squirrel that is a staple diet in some part of China and the neighbouring Mongolia, which have a history of plague outbreaks in the region. Bayannur authorities have cautioned people against the consumption of marmots and asked people to report on the findings of dead or sick marmots.

Marmots are also believed to have caused the 1911 pneumonic plague epidemic which killed about 63,000 people in northeast China. Marmots were hunted for its fur, its popularity rising among the international traders. The diseases fur products that travelled across different countries infected thousands along the way. While the epidemic was contained within a year, marmot-related contagions have continued for decades. Last year, a couple in Mongolia died after they consumed the raw kidney of a marmot, thought to be a folk remedy for good health. Months later, across the border in China’s Inner Mongolia, two people got affected by the pneumonic plague, another form of the disease that affects the lungs.

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Jinit Jain
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