Both 2020 and China have been only giving us bad news and they seem to be far from done as of now. While the world is still figuring out a way to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic, China has now reported several suspected cases of bubonic plague, which is also known as ‘Black Death’.
The authorities of the Chinese city of Bayannur in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region sounded alarm bells as two brothers were feared to have contracted the infection after consuming marmot meat.
Taking precautionary measures, a total of 146 people who came in contact with the brothers have been isolated. Besides, a lockdown has also been enforced in parts of the affected Inner Mongolian region.
What is bubonic plague?
It is a form of bacterial infection caused by a bacteria called Yersinia Pestis. It can either result from a bite of an infected flea or direct contact with an infected rodent.
The symptoms include headache, chills, fever, malaise and pain generally around the affected areas on the body. Those infected can also develop painful swollen lymph glands, called buboes, from which the plague is said to have derived its name.
The history of bubonic plague is rather frightening as it has claimed tens of millions of lives across several countries. In the 14th century, when the Black Death appeared for the first time, it claimed around 50 million lives in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Since then, there have been a number of outbreaks of this fatal infection in different parts of the world. During the Great Plague of 1665, it wiped out about a fifth of London’s population whereas over 12 million people were killed in China and India in multiple outbreaks all through the 19th century.
How deadly is bubonic plague?
As this form of the plague affects a part of the immune system, it can prove to be fatal if not treated in the initial stage. Early detection and early treatment are key to fight this disease.
Fortunately, strong antibiotics are enough to eradicate the infection, if taken in time. If not, it can result in death within 24 hours.
Even though there is a possibility of human to human transmission, many experts are optimistic that it won’t turn into an epidemic and definitely not into a pandemic.
Dr. Shanti Kappagoda, an infectious diseases expert at Stanford Health Care, told Healthline, “Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted. We know how to prevent it. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics.”