Tuesday 7 July 2020

Bubonic Plague reported in Inner Mongolia, China.

A case of Bubonic Plague has been reported in Inner Mongolia, China, this week. A patient, described as a local herdsman, was admitted to a hospital in Urad Middle Banner (Middle Urad County), on Saturday 4 July 2020, where they are being treated with antibiotics in an isolation unit. A second suspected case, described as a fifteen-year-old, is also receiving treatment. Both are described as being in stable conditions. Left untreated, Bubonic Plague kills between 30% and 60% of those who become infected, and is thought to have been responsible for the Black Death outbreaks of the Middle Ages, which killed tens of millions of people across Asia, Europe, and Africa, but typically responds well to modern antibiotics.

The approximate location of the July 2020 Bubonic Plague outbreak. Google Maps.

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. 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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