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3rd plague case diagnosed in Inner Mongolia

By WANG XIAOYU in Beijing and YUAN HUI in Hohhot | China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-18 09:18
[Photo/VCG]

Quarry worker infected with bubonic strain of disease after eating wild rabbit

A patient in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region has been diagnosed with bubonic plague after eating wild rabbit meat, triggering the quarantining of 28 close contacts in the area, local health authorities said on Sunday.

The new case is unrelated to the two patients from Inner Mongolia confirmed with pneumonic plague in Beijing on Tuesday, the region's health commission said in a statement posted on its website.

The newly diagnosed patient, a 55-year-old male quarry worker in Xiliin Gol League, complained of persistent fever at a county-level hospital recently and is now confirmed as carrying the bubonic form of plague, which mainly infects the lymph nodes, the commission said.

He is now being quarantined and treated at the hospital, and 28 people who came into contact with him have been put into quarantine for medical observation. None had displayed related symptoms by Sunday afternoon, the commission said.

The male patient is believed to have skinned and eaten a wild rabbit at the quarry on Nov 5, it said. Wild rabbits, as well as marmots and rats, are major carriers of the bacterium that causes plague.

In the earlier case, a herding couple, also from Xiliin Gol League, were transferred by ambulance from Inner Mongolia to Beijing. They were confirmed on Tuesday as having the pneumonic form of plague, which damages the lungs.

The Beijing Municipal Health Commission said on Saturday that one of the two patients is now stable while the other, who is in critical condition, fared better on Thursday but then deteriorated on Saturday.

Meanwhile, some close contacts of the two patients have been released from medical quarantine, and the remaining people have shown no symptoms so far, the capital's health commission said.

Fan Mengguang, deputy director of Inner Mongolia's Disease Prevention and Control Center, said last week that health officials were trying to hunt down the source of the infection that afflicted the couple.

The Inner Mongolia Health Commission said plague is usually transmitted by infected fleas or animals, but respiratory droplets of patients with the pneumonic type can also spread the infection.

It added that people who work in wilderness areas, hunters who eat marmots and herdsmen who are often exposed to animals that can carry the pathogen are at higher risk of catching plague.

Though plague can be lethal if left untreated, it is curable with timely diagnosis and treatment, and there is no need for panic, it said.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention assured the public last week that the likelihood of a widespread plague epidemic was minuscule.

Plague is best known for killing tens of millions of people in Europe during the 14th century, in what became known as the Black Death. In China, plague infections have been rare in recent years, with isolated cases mostly concentrated in northwestern parts of the country.

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