Bubonic plague infections do still occur in parts of the western United States as well as in Africa and Asia, mostly carried by fleas and rodents.
Two patients in China were diagnosed with plague, the deadly and infectious disease tied to historic pandemics, local media reported.
The two people, from Inner Mongolia, were treated for pneumonic plague in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, local health officials said Tuesday, according to Caixin and state-media Xinhua.
The news outlets reported the patients received “proper treatment,” and disease control measures and prevention methods have been taken.
According to Caixin, the patients were treated at Chaoyang Hospital, which has since replaced all chairs in its emergency room.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the patients were quickly isolated and health officials investigated everyone who could have been exposed to them, The New York Times reported. Chinese health officials also called the risk for further infections “extremely low.”
Pneumonic plague is one of three forms of the infectious disease and the only one that can be transmitted from person to person by inhaling infected droplets – for example, spread when someone breathes in cough droplets from an infected person.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls pneumonic plague the “most serious form of the disease.” All three forms are caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium.
Earlier this year, a Mongolian couple died from the bubonic plague after eating raw marmot meat. The case sparked a quarantine in the area for days, but no additional cases appeared to have been reported.
More on plague in Mongolia: After eating raw rodent’s kidney for ‘good health,’ couple die of bubonic plague, spark quarantine
The couple ate the rodent’s raw meat and kidney, which people in the area believe is good for health, a World Health Organization official told the BBC at the time.
A person is infected with bubonic or septicemic plague usually via infected flea bite or handling infected meat. Either form of plague can develop into pneumonic plague if they go untreated and spread to the lungs, the CDC says.
Fever, headache, weakness and rapidly developing pneumonia are all symptoms of pneumonic plague, the CDC says.
Plague is treated with modern antibiotics, but throughout history, pandemics have caused widespread death around the globe, including the Black Death – the pandemic that swept across Europe in the mid-1300s and killed millions. Infections in humans do still occur in parts of the western United States, too, though modern cases are not usually fatal, the CDC says.
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