WHO says it is ‘carefully monitoring’ bubonic plague outbreak in China

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

A WHO official claimed today that the situation was being ‘well managed’ by China and not considered to represent a high risk.

A herdsman in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region was confirmed at the weekend to have bubonic plague, known as the ‘Black Death’ in the Middle Ages.

Officials at China's northern Inner Mongolia confirmed on Sunday that a herdsman had contracted bubonic plague, known as the 'Black Death' in the Middle Ages. The above picture shows people visiting a night market in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, on June 26

Officials at China's northern Inner Mongolia confirmed on Sunday that a herdsman had contracted bubonic plague, known as the 'Black Death' in the Middle Ages. The above picture shows people visiting a night market in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, on June 26

Officials at China’s northern Inner Mongolia confirmed on Sunday that a herdsman had contracted bubonic plague, known as the ‘Black Death’ in the Middle Ages. The above picture shows people visiting a night market in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, on June 26

Health officials in the city of Bayan Nur issued the third-level alert on Sunday, the second lowest in a four-level system. The picture shows the geographical location of the city

Health officials in the city of Bayan Nur issued the third-level alert on Sunday, the second lowest in a four-level system. The picture shows the geographical location of the city

Health officials in the city of Bayan Nur issued the third-level alert on Sunday, the second lowest in a four-level system. The picture shows the geographical location of the city

Bubonic plague is one of the most devastating diseases in history, having killed around 100million people in the 14th century. 

The news comes after the WHO also publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus throughout January. 

The agency repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus ‘immediately,’ and said its work and commitment to transparency were ‘very impressive, and beyond words’.

But in March, the WHO declared a pandemic caused by the coronavirus after it had spread to dozens of countries. The disease has so far killed more than 538,000 people worldwide.

Officials of Bayan Nur have ordered all close contacts of the patient to be quarantined and checkpoints set up outside their residential compounds for the monitoring of residents and visitors. The above file photo shows herdsmen lassoing horses at a traditional fair Bayan Nur

Officials of Bayan Nur have ordered all close contacts of the patient to be quarantined and checkpoints set up outside their residential compounds for the monitoring of residents and visitors. The above file photo shows herdsmen lassoing horses at a traditional fair Bayan Nur

Officials of Bayan Nur have ordered all close contacts of the patient to be quarantined and checkpoints set up outside their residential compounds for the monitoring of residents and visitors. The above file photo shows herdsmen lassoing horses at a traditional fair Bayan Nur

The government of Bayan Nur, the Chinese city that reported the bubonic plague case, on Sunday issued an early epidemic warning after identifying the herdsman as a suspected patient. The city is also known as Bayannur.

The individual was confirmed to have the disease on the same day, sparking fears of a new disease outbreak amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bayan Nur’s Party secretary Chang Zhigang on Monday ordered the city’s officials to ensure that all plague-prevention measures would be carried out thoroughly.

According to an official notice, Mr Chang demanded officials quarantine the patient’s close contacts and set up checkpoints outside their residential compounds.

The local leader also instructed relevant residential compounds to ‘closely monitor’ visitors to prevent the disease from erupting. 

Health workers were also set to carry out door-to-door checks on residents in the plague-hit area, the statement said.

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris (seen in a news programme in May) commented on the bubonic plague case: 'We are looking at the case numbers in China. It's being well managed'

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris (seen in a news programme in May) commented on the bubonic plague case: 'We are looking at the case numbers in China. It's being well managed'

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris (seen in a news programme in May) commented on the bubonic plague case: ‘We are looking at the case numbers in China. It’s being well managed’

Two other cases were confirmed in Khovd province in neighbouring Mongolia last week involving brothers who had eaten marmot meat, China's state media said (file photo)

Two other cases were confirmed in Khovd province in neighbouring Mongolia last week involving brothers who had eaten marmot meat, China's state media said (file photo)

Two other cases were confirmed in Khovd province in neighbouring Mongolia last week involving brothers who had eaten marmot meat, China’s state media said (file photo)

What is the bubonic plague? 

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is carried by fleas and transmitted between animals.

The bubonic plague – the most common form – is caused by the bite of an infected flea and can spread through contact with infectious bodily fluids or contaminated materials. 

Patients may show signs of fever and nausea and at an advanced stage may develop open sores filled with pus.  

It devastated Europe in the Middle Ages, most notably in the Black Death of the 1340s which killed a third or more of the continent’s population. 

After the Black Death plague became a common phenomenon in Europe, with outbreaks recurring regularly until the 18th century. 

When the Great Plague of 1665 hit, a fifth of people in London died, with victims shut in their homes and red crosses painted on the door. 

Bubonic plague has almost completely vanished from the rich world, with 90 per cent of all cases now found in Africa. 

It is now treatable with antibiotics, as long as they are administered quickly. 

Still, there have been a few non-fatal cases in the U.S., with an average of seven reported a year, according to disease control bosses. 

From 2010 to 2015 there were 3,248 cases reported worldwide, including 584 deaths, says the World Health Organisation. 

Some plague vaccines have been developed, but none are available to the general public. 

The WHO does not recommend vaccination except for high-risk groups such as health care workers.  

Without antibiotics, the bubonic strain can spread to the lungs – where it becomes the more virulent pneumonic form.  

Pneumonic plague, which can kill within 24 hours, can then be passed on through coughing, sneezing or spitting.  

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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.

‘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 Bayan Nur, the city health commission said in a statement.

The statement also claimed that local officials had imposed relevant epidemic-control measures.

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.

The Bayan Nur city authority on Sunday issued a citywide level-three warning for epidemic control, the second-lowest in a four-level system, after a resident contracted the disease.

Level three warning is announced in China when a city has detected between one to 20 cases of an infectious disease.

The official alert forbids the hunting and eating of animals that could carry plague. 

It also asks the public to report any suspected cases of plague or fever with no clear causes and to report any sick or dead marmots. 

The warning will stay in place until the end of the year, said the officials. 

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is carried by fleas and transmitted between animals. The picture above is a 3D illustration of the bacterium

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is carried by fleas and transmitted between animals. The picture above is a 3D illustration of the bacterium

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is carried by fleas and transmitted between animals. The picture above is a 3D illustration of the bacterium

British experts have claimed that the disease, which usually affects wild rodents and is spread by infected fleas, will not become a global health threat like COVID-19. 

Dr Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton, said: ‘Bubonic plague is a thoroughly unpleasant disease and this case will be of concern locally within Inner Mongolia. 

‘However, it is not going to become a global threat like we have seen with COVID-19. Bubonic plague is transmitted via the bite of infected fleas, and human to human transmission is very rare.’

Prof David Mabey, Professor of Communicable Diseases from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, called the case in China ‘not worrying at all’.

He said: ‘[The disease] is transmitted from rodents to human by flea bites. There were a number of cases recently in Madagascar where it was suspected there might have been human to human transmission due to so called pneumonic plague, when the infection spreads via the blood stream to the lungs, but this was never proven.’

Prof Christl Donnelly, Professor of Applied Statistics, University of Oxford and Professor of Statistical Epidemiology, Imperial College London, said commonly available antibiotics were effective at treating plague. 

‘Sometimes antibiotics are given preventatively to close contacts of cases. Most cases of plague in the last 30 years have been recorded in Africa. However, small numbers of plague cases occur annually in the United States, usually in rural areas of western states,’ Prof Donnelly said.

BUBONIC PLAGUE: WIPED OUT A THIRD OF EUROPE IN THE 14TH CENTURY 

Bubonic plague is one of the most devastating diseases in history, having killed around 100million people during the ‘Black Death’ in the 14th century.

Drawings and paintings from the outbreak, which wiped out about a third of the European population, depict town criers saying ‘bring out your dead’ while dragging trailers piled with infected corpses.

It is caused by a bacterium known as Yersinia pestis, which uses the flea as a host and is usually transmitted to humans via rats.

Drawings and paintings from the outbreak, which wiped out about a third of the European population, depict town criers saying 'bring out your dead' while dragging trailers piled with infected corpses

Drawings and paintings from the outbreak, which wiped out about a third of the European population, depict town criers saying 'bring out your dead' while dragging trailers piled with infected corpses

Drawings and paintings from the outbreak, which wiped out about a third of the European population, depict town criers saying ‘bring out your dead’ while dragging trailers piled with infected corpses

The disease causes grotesque symptoms such as gangrene and the appearance of large swellings on the groin, armpits or neck, known as ‘buboes’.

It kills up to two thirds of sufferers within just four days if it is not treated, although if antibiotics are administered within 24 hours of infection patients are highly likely to survive.

After the Black Death arrived in 1347 plague became a common phenomenon in Europe, with outbreaks recurring regularly until the 18th century.

Bubonic plague has almost completely vanished from the rich world, with 90 per cent of all cases now found in Africa.

However, there have been a few non-fatal cases in the U.S. in recent years, while in August 2013 a 15-year-old boy died in Kyrgyzstan after eating a groundhog infected with the disease.

Three months later, an outbreak in a Madagascan killed at least 20 people in a week. 

A year before 60 people died as a result of the infection, more than in any other country in the world.

Outbreaks in China have been rare in recent years, and most have happened in remote rural areas of the west.

China’s state broadcaster said there were 12 diagnosed cases and three deaths in the province of Qinghai in 2009, and one in Sichuan in 2012.

In the United States between five and 15 people die every year as a result, mostly in western states.

Link hienalouca.com

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