Two people in China have been diagnosed with the plague, the second time in recent months the highly contagious disease – which caused the ancient Black Death pandemic – has been detected in the same region, according to reports.
The two patients, from the northwestern Inner Mongolia province, were being treated at a hospital in the capital of Beijing, home to more than 21 million people, according to local officials, AFP reported.
The “relevant prevention and control measures have been implemented” to prevent the spread of the deadly disease, district officials said.
Pneumonic plague, the “most virulent” form of the disease, can prove fatal in 24 to 72 hours, according to the World Health Organization, while the bubonic form is less dangerous.
In May, a Russian couple in Mongolia died from the bubonic plague after eating the raw kidney of a marmot, a local folk health remedy.
“The (Chinese) National Health Commission are implementing efforts to contain and treat the identified cases, and increasing surveillance,” said Fabio Scano, coordinator at WHO China.
Scano told AFP that “the risk of transmission of the pulmonary plague is for close contacts and we understand that these are being screened and managed.”
According to the WHO website, the disease is very contagious and “can trigger severe epidemics through person-to-person contact via droplets in the air.” Symptoms include fever, chills, vomiting and nausea.
On the Chinese social media platform Weibo, censors scrubbed the hashtag “Beijing confirms it is treating plague cases” as they tried to control discussions — and panic — around the disease.
“I just want to know how these two came to Beijing??” one user wrote. “By train, airplane, or did they drive themselves?”
Another wrote: “Bird flu in the year of the rooster…swine fever in the year of the pig. Next year is the year of the rat…the plague is coming.”
On Wednesday, the emergency department of Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing returned to normal operation after a temporary shutdown due to the two infected patients, according to China’s Global Times.
Zhou Zijun, a professor at Peking University’s School of Public Health, said that residents should not be too concerned about a spread of the disease, which has a short incubation period of three to five days and is treated with antibiotics.
The two patients reportedly arrived in Beijing last week, so the fact that more cases have not broken out is good news, Zhou noted.
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