China has issued a bubonic plague alert and forbidden its citizens from eating certain, risky animals. The Bayannur health commission issued a Level 3 warning alert that came on Sunday after a suspected case was reported at a hospital in China’s Inner Mongolia.
Known as the Black Death of the Middle Ages, bubonic plague is one of the deadliest bacterium infections in human history. It comes from the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is highly infectious and often deadly. Spread mostly through fleas on rodents, the bubonic plague killed an estimated 50 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Bubonic plague is one of the plague’s three forms and causes painful, swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills and coughing.
The Level 3 alert issued is the second-lowest in a four-level system, which will stay in place till the end of the year. It also forbids people from hunting and eating animals that could carry the plague. The public has been asked to take extra precautions to minimize the risk of human-to-human infection, and report any cases of plague or fever without a clear cause.
The people have also been asked to report any sick or dead marmot, which is a type of large ground squirrel eaten in some parts of China and Mongolia. Marmots have historically caused plague outbreaks in the region, such as the plague in 1911 which killed about 63,000 people in northeast China.
Four cases of plague were reported in people from Inner Mongolia in November 2019, including two cases of pneumonic plague, a deadlier variant of plague.
While it is not uncommon for plague cases to be reported in China, outbreaks have become increasingly rare. Between 2009 and 2018, China reported 26 cases and 11 deaths from plague.
However, it is unlikely that the bubonic plague will lead to an epidemic since we now know how to prevent and treat it. Good thing too, since the last thing we need right now is another global pandemic.