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With another confirmed case of the plague in Mongolia, the World Health Organisation has classified the disease that killed 25 million people as “re-emerging”. Huzzah.
It seems disease, like fashion, is cyclical. Not long after measles came back into vogue, it seems that black death is the new black.
Authorities in a city in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia issued a warning a day after a hospital reported a case of suspected bubonic plague.
The health committee of the city of Bayan Nur issued the third-level alert, the second-lowest in a four-level system.
The alert forbids the hunting and eating of animals that could carry plague and asks the public to report any suspected cases of plague or fever with no clear causes and to report any sick or dead marmots.
Back in November, CNN reported that two people in China are being treated for the plague. Turns out that this is the second time the disease has cropped up in the region, as May 2019 saw a Mongolian couple die from the bubonic plague as a result of eating a kidney of a marmot.
The two recent patients, who live in Inner Mongolia, were diagnosed by Beijing medical professionals, and are receiving treatment in the capital, according to state media Xinhua.
So, the bubonic plague still a thing? Sure is.
According to the World Health Organisation, from 2010 to 2015, more than 3,248 cases were reported worldwide, including 584 deaths. As it stands the hottest plague countries are Madagascar, Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
WHO also believes that the plague is a “re-emerging” disease, with around 50,000 reported cases over the past two decades.
According to CNN, the “plague is caused by bacteria and transmitted through flea bites and infected animals, can develop in three different forms. Bubonic plague causes swollen lymph nodes, while the septicemic plague infects the blood and pneumonic plague infects the lungs. Pneumonic — the kind the Chinese patients have — is more virulent and damaging. Left untreated, it is always fatal.”
It’s worth noting that a 2018 study suggested it’s not just rats that were responsible for the initial instance — the Black Death may have spread by human fleas and body lice.
While there is currently no true vaccine against plague, modern antibiotics can prevent complications and death if given quickly enough. However, a strain of bubonic plague with high-level resistance to antibiotics was recently noted in Madagascar.
Untreated bubonic plague can turn into pneumonic plague, which causes rapidly developing pneumonia, after bacteria spreads to the lungs.
CNN also notes that “a recent report suggests that researchers are exploring a variety of approaches to develop an effective vaccine…since different vaccine designs lead to different mechanisms of immunity, the authors conclude that combinations of different types might overcome the limitations of individual vaccines and effectively prevent a plague outbreak.”