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COVID-19 Not Enough? The Return of the Plague

BY: Yusra Adil 

Earlier last week, Chinese authorities reported a case of bubonic plague, spurring rumors about the reoccurrence of the Black Death. On Saturday, July 4, 2020, a patient in northern China near Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague. The case was reported at a hospital in Urad Middle Banner, in Bayannur city. The patient was confirmed the next day to be infected by the bubonic plague, a male patient who was a herdsman living in the northern city of Bayannur. Officials are currently investigating how the patient got infected and other details. Another case has also come forward which involves a fifteen-year-old patient. The second confirmed case concerns a 15-year-old, who had eaten marmot meat and the young boy died a week later. 

Consequently, the Chinese government issued a Level 3 alert until the end of 2020. This alert forbids all citizens from hunting, eating and transporting animals that could possibly carry plagues and practicing good prevention and safety measures. The government also said that suspected cases should be reported immediately. "At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly," quoted the local Chinese health authority. 

The bubonic plague is a bacterial infection that affects the human lymphatic system and is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis (Y. pestis).  The bubonic plague is known to cause the Black Death, the most dangerous pandemic in the Middle Ages. The infection is spread through infected fleas or animals, like rodents, squirrels, or hares, which can be passed to humans who are bitten or scratched. In fact, recently in Colorado, a squirrel has been tested positive for the bubonic plague. The bubonic plague also occurred in China in 2017 because the patient was in contact with a marmot. Similarly, the second patient was also in contact with a marmot. The plague can cause a range of symptoms such as fever, vomiting, bleeding, organ failure. If the disease isn’t treated immediately, the bacteria can spread in the bloodstream and cause septicemic plague. If the bacteria infect the lungs, it can cause pneumonic plague. However, health officials have reported that this issue is under control and many antibiotics and medicines exist to cure patients with the bubonic plague.

As long as a person doesn’t have physical contact with the animal, the bacteria will not spread, and thus, chances of getting the bubonic plague are extremely rare. Dr. Shanti Kappagoda, an infectious diseases doctor at Stanford Health Care, said that "We know how to prevent it. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics."

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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