The bubonic plague is a zoonotic disease affecting rodents and transmitted by fleas from rodents to other animals and to humans. Direct person-to-person transmission does not occur except in the case of pneumonic plague, when respiratory droplets may transfer the infection from the patient to others in close contact. link
Patients develop sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness and one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes (called buboes). This form is usually the result of an infected flea bite. The bacteria multiply in the lymph node closest to where the bacteria entered the human body. If the patient is not treated with appropriate antibiotics, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body. link. This plague was once knows as the ‘Black Death’ which killed about 50 million people across Africa, Asia and Europe in the 14th Century. Bubonic plague was once the world’s most feared disease, but fortunately can now be easily treated!
According to state reports, in July 2020, a Bayannur patient, who is a herdsman is in quarantine and in a stable condition. It is not clear how this patient has become infected.
According to China’s Global Times there is also an investigation under way for two other cases. Chinese news agency Xinhua says Mongolia had also confirmed two cases last week – brothers who had eaten marmot meat in Khovd province.link
A level 3 alert, which forbids the hunting and eating of animals that could carry plague and calls on the public to report suspected cases, has been put in place until the end of the year. link
Spokeswoman Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization said: “Bubonic plague has been with us and is always with us, for centuries. We are looking at the case numbers in China. It’s being well managed. At the moment, we are not considering it high risk but we’re watching it, monitoring it carefully.’
Reported outbreaks in China and Mongolia has prompted Russia to carry out a huge sanitisation campaign to kill infected fleas by spraying across a large area near remote villages. Some 2,500 adults and 623 children have been so far given vaccinations in Siberia, which shares a border with Mongolia. Russian officials are warning communities in the country’s Altai region not to hunt marmots, as infected meat from the rodents is a known transmission route.
Risk for travellers
Generally low except in rural areas of countries or areas at risk, particularly if camping or hunting.Avoid any contact with live or dead rodents.
A vaccine effective against bubonic plague is available exclusively for individuals with a high occupational exposure to plague; it is not commercially available in most countries. link