The bubonic plague is returning to Chinese Inner Mongolia

The case was discovered in the city of Bayannur, located northwest of Beijing, according to the state Xinhua News Agency, The hospital alerted municipal authorities to the patient’s case on Saturday. By Sunday, local authorities had issued a general level 3 warning to prevent the plague, the second lowest in the system at four levels.

The warning will remain in place until the end of the year, Xinhua said.

The plague, caused by bacteria and transmitted through the bites of fleas and infected animals, is one of the most deadly bacterial infections in human history. During the Black Death in the Middle Ages, it killed about 50 million people in Europe.

Bubonic plague, which is one of the three forms of plague, causes painful, swollen lymph nodes, as well as fever, chills, and cough.

Bayannur health authorities are now asking people to take extra precautions to reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission and to avoid hunting or eating animals that could cause infection.

“Currently, there is a risk of the human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve their awareness and ability to self-protect and immediately report abnormal health conditions,” the local health administration said, according to the state newspaper. China Daily.

Bayannur authorities have warned the public to report the findings of dead or diseased shrubs – a species of large ground squirrel that is eaten in parts of China and neighboring Mongolia and that has historically caused plague epidemics in the region.

The marmot is thought to have caused the 1911 pneumonia epidemic, which killed about 63,000 people in northeast China. It was hunted for its fur, which is suddenly popular among international traders. Diseased fur products were traded and transported across the country – infecting thousands of people along the way.

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Although the epidemic took hold within a year, marmot-associated plague infections persisted for decades. Just last week in Mongolia, two cases of bubonic plague were confirmed – brothers eating marmot meat, according to Xinhua.
Last May a couple in Mongolia died of bubonic plague after eating raw kidney marmots, it was thought to be a folk remedy for good health. Two more people got pneumonic plague – another form of the disease, which infects the lungs – months later across the border into Inner Mongolia.

Why is the plague still a thing?

The advent of antibiotics, which can treat most infections if caught early enough, helped suppress the plague epidemic, preventing the type of witness from spreading rapidly in medieval Europe.

But while modern medicine can cure the plague, it has not completely eliminated it – and it has recently returned, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify it as a recurrent disease.

Anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people get the plague each year, according to the WHO. But that overall estimate is probably too modest, as it does not take into account unreported cases.

Every year, between 1,000 and 2,000 people get the plague - including about 7 in America

The three most endemic countries – meaning the plague persists there – are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Peru.

There have been several to several dozen cases of plague in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, two people died of the plague in Colorado, and a year earlier, there were eight reported cases in the state.

There is currently no effective vaccine against plague, but modern antibiotics can prevent complications and death if given quickly enough. Untreated bubonic plague can turn into pneumonic plague, which causes rapidly developing pneumonia, after the bacterium spreads to the lungs.

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