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Chinese city issues epidemic alert for bubonic plague

Beijing: Authorities in a city in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia have issued alert and stepped up precautions after a hospital reported two suspected case of bubonic plague.

According to China’s state-run Global Times newspaper, the first case was reported as suspected bubonic plague on Saturday at a hospital in Urad Middle Banner, in Bayannur city.

The second suspected case involved a 15-year-old, who had apparently been in contact with a marmot hunted by a dog, a tweet from Global Times said.

Local authorities in Bayannur issued a third-level warning for plague prevention and control that will last till the end of 2020, the commission said.

They urged the public to beef up self-protection as the city has the risk of people-to-people infections and not to hunt and eat animals that could cause plague infections.

The agency also called the public to report any findings of illed or dead marmots and report suspected plague cases, high fever patients with unknown reasons and patients dying from sudden deaths.

Marmots are among the 14 species of giant squirrels found mostly in north-central Asia, the Himalayas, Eurasia and North America.

The tarbagan marmot is a part of the native cuisine of Mongolia for centuries now. Mongolians cook a local dish called Bodog by inserting hot stones, preheated in a fire, into the abdominal cavity of a deboned marmot. The skin is then tied up to make a bag within which the meat cooks.

Bubonic plague was responsible for one of the deadliest epidemics in human history – the Black Death – which killed about 50 million people across Africa, Asia and Europe in the 14th Century, the BBC report said.

It killed about a fifth of London’s population during the Great Plague of 1665, while more than 12 million died in outbreaks during the 19th Century in China and India.

But nowadays it can be treated by antibiotics. Left untreated, the disease, which is typically transmitted from animals to humans by fleas, has a 30-60 per cent fatality rate.

In May 2019, two people in the country of Mongolia died from the plague, which they contracted after eating the raw meat of a marmot – the same type of rodent the second suspected case came into contact with.

The bubonic plague report comes as the world is struggling to contain the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which originated in China’s Wuhan city last December.

It also comes amidst alert over a newly discovered virus that is a variant strain of swine flu was reported from Chinese pig farms, potentially a seed to a pandemic.

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