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On top of the coronavirus, the bubonic plague has now been discovered in a sheepherder

As of July 6, nearly 11.5 million people around the world have been infected with the novel coronavirus, and more than 530,000 people have died. But there are other potential pandemic-causing diseases to worry about, including a new swine flu from China and a case of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia.

On June 29, scientists released a study that showed how the swine flu, called “G4 EA H1N1,” had “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus.” On July 5, meanwhile, a herder was diagnosed with the bubonic plague, and as the New York Times pointed out, that’s the same disease that caused the Black Death in the Middle Ages. Between 1347-1351, it’s estimated that 25 million people died from the plague (though CNN had the estimate at 50 million), and according to the World Health Organization, the plague’s death rate is between 30-60% if left untreated.

The plague can be found in rodents, particularly in marmots in Inner Mongolia, and it’s transmitted from animal to animal by fleas. The WHO writes that humans can be infected if they’re bitten by an infected flea or if they encounter infected body fluids. Mongolia, a neighbor of Inner Mongolia, reported two cases of bubonic plague last week after two people ate infected marmot meat.  

“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,” a local health authority told China Daily.

Antibiotics have helped curtail widespread bubonic plague infections, but the WHO has also classified the disease as reemerging.  According to the CDC, an average of seven human plague cases are reported each year in the U.S., while between 1,000-2,000 are reported globally (though the worldwide numbers could be lowball figures).

The Times reported that the hospitalized herdsman is in stable condition.

Sources: New York Times, Britannica, World Health Organization, CDC, CNN, China Daily


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