Now China Warns of Bubonic Plague. What is this Deadly Disease that Wiped Off Half of Europe in the Middle Ages?


Now China Warns of Bubonic Plague. What is this Deadly Disease that Wiped Off Half of Europe in the Middle Ages?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

While the world has been brought to its knees with the coronavirus pandemic, there is a new bacterial infection that is causing panic. Authorities in Bayannur, the region of Inner Mongolia in China have issued a warning after a hospital reported a case of suspected bubonic plague. A level three warning of plague prevention and control has been announced.

The alert forbids hunting and eating of animals that could carry plague. It asks people to report suspected cases of plague or fever with no clear causes, and to report any sick or dead marmots. Few days ago, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported two cases of bubonic plague in Khovd province in western Mongolia. The 27-year-old resident and his 17-year-old brother ate marmot meat, and are being treated at two separate hospitals. A total of 146 people who had contact with them have been isolated and treated at local hospitals.

“At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly,” the local health authority said.

What is bubonic plague?

It is a bacterial disease; fleas living on wild rodents such as marmots spread it. It can kill a person in 24 hours if not treated in time, says WHO. There are two main forms of the plague: bubonic and pneumonic. According to WHO, bubonic plague is the most common form and is characterised by painful swollen lymph nodes. It is a rare disease now, with only 3,248 cases and 584 deaths reported between 2010-2015. However, in the middle ages, bubonic plague, also known as “black death”, had wiped out more than half of Europe’s population.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for bubonic plague are onset of fever, chills, head and body aches, and weakness, vomiting and nausea, according to WHO. The lymph node becomes inflamed, tense and painful. During advanced stages of the infection, the inflamed lymph nodes can turn into open sores filled with pus.

Is human to human transmission possible?

According to the WHO, human-to-human transmission of bubonic plague is rare. However, any person with pneumonic plague may transmit the disease via droplets to other humans.

Do we have to worry about it?

Thanks to antibiotics, bubonic plague is largely treatable now.

Now that we can breathe a sigh of relief, a bit of laughter is in order.

Hey 2020, can we like rest for two minutes?

Plot twist incoming.

Ye dukh kahe khatam nahi hota?

While the world deals with the coronavirus, frequent earthquakes and now heavy monsoon showers, the last thing we need is more trouble. Bubonic plague, hope to never see you again.