Sunday, 17 November 2019

Third case of Plague reported in China.

A third case of plague has been reported in China, with a 55-year-old man in Inner Mongolia reportedly being treated for the Bubonic form of the disease, which he is believed to have contracted after eating a wild-caught Rabbit earlier this month. This follows the two cases of the disease that were reported in Beijing earlier this week, with both patients also from Inner Mongolia and suffering from the Pneumonic form of Plague having been brought to a hospital in the city for specialist treatment. All three patients are being treated in isolation, with a number of people who have come into contact with them being monitored for symptoms. Pneumonic Plague is a variety of the disease, which infects the lungs and is spread through coughing, rather than the more usual Bubonic variety, which infects the lymph-nodes and is typically spread via the exchange of bodily fluids via a parasite vector such as a Flea.

Plague is caused by Yersinia pestis, the same Bacterium that causes Bubonic Plague. The Bacterium is indigenous to northern China, Mongolia, and the Russian Far East, with outbreaks of Plague being a regular occurrence. Yersinia pestis generally responds well to antibiotics, but the alarm caused by the diseases it causes can provoke excessive use, leading to shortages when they are most needed. The most recent fatalities due to the disease in the region having happened in April this year, when two Russian citizens died of the disease in Mongolia, and the most recent fatality in China having happened in Gansu Province in 2014. Due to its high mortality and transmission rates outbreaks of Plague are always concerning, though the apparent ability of the Chinese healthcare system to contain an outbreak without fatalities is encouraging.

 Mass of Yersinia pestis Bacteria. Wikipedia.

Yersinia pestis is a Gram-negative, facultatively anaerobic (i.e. capable of using oxygen, but not needing it), rod-shaped Gammaproteobacteria, related to other pathogenic Bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae (Cholera), and Esherchia coli (food poisoning).It is a zoonotic disease, naturally occurring in a variety of Rodents, but capable of infecting Humans, typically via Fleas, which spread the disease by biting both their regular Rodent hosts and Humans. Zoonotic diseases can be particularly dangerous, as Humans are not part of their natural life-cycle, with the effect that they are not under evolutionary pressure to keep Human hosts alive in order to perpetuate themselves. Such diseases typically have short duration and a high fatality rate, though epidemics usually burn out quickly.

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