Two Cases of Plague Reported in China

The Black Death is making a comeback

plague
Plague's back!
Getty
By Kayla Kibbe / November 13, 2019 11:41 am

As the world continues to hurtle toward near-certain catastrophic demise, the plague — which you may remember from a certain deadly medieval pandemic known as the Black Death — has decided it might as well make a comeback.

Two people in China are being treated for the disease as of Tuesday, CNN reported. The two patients, from the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, were diagnosed with pneumonic plague in Beijing where they are currently receiving treatment. Authorities have reportedly implemented preventative control measures throughout the region.

The disease, which is caused by bacteria and transmitted to humans through flea bites and infected animals, can develop in multiple forms. Bubonic plague, the one most closely associated with the Black Death of the Middle Ages, causes swollen lymph nodes, while septicemic plague infects the blood and pneumonic plague attacks the lungs. The recent Chinese patients have been diagnosed with the latter, which, according to the World Health Organization as reported by CNN, is a particularly virulent form of the disease that is “always fatal” if left untreated.

While new cases of an infamous medieval illness may sound shocking, the disease isn’t actually as rare today as you might think. From 2010 to 2015, more than 3,248 cases of plague were reported worldwide, including 584 deaths, according to the WHO. While these cases are most common in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Peru, the United States sees a handful of cases each year, including two that resulted in death in Colorado in 2015. Thanks to this subtle reappearance in recent decades, the WHO has actually categorized plague as a “re-emerging disease.”

Fortunately, modern antibiotics can effectively prevent complications and death from plague if administered early enough, so another Black Death-level pandemic probably isn’t upon us. Yet.

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