Bubonic Plague in China… Should The World Fear Yet Another Pandemic?

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A bubonic plague smear Image Source: BBC news

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually no one is unaware of the fact that the first case of COVID-19 was detected in China. With the coronavirus chaos, the world, by now, should have learned how to respond to health threats. COVID 19 pandemic not only engulfed thousands of lives but destroyed the world’s economy. In this crisis, is the world ready for another disease to prevail?

A herder (herdsman) contracted infection called the bubonic plague in the northern regions of China, which has originated a wave of fear. Although the World Health Organisation considers the bubonic plague to be of low risk given a very less number of infected people, China has imposed restrictions to contain the disease before it spreads like fire in the forest.

World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris says:

“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.”

Although low risk, the disease is being monitored by the agency with partners in China and Mongolia, according to WHO. China, particularly the authorities in Bayannur city, have issued a third-level alert to prevent the spread of the plague. Residents are now prohibited from hunting. A high-level warning has been issued regarding the consumption and transportation of potentially infected animals, particularly marmots.

The local health authority said:

“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.”

With the fear prevailing, the general population fears another pandemic so much so that the well-being of the infected herder is less often asked about. The herder has been managed well and doing well according to the most recent reports. H was diagnosed with the type that doesn’t spread from person to person. A little sigh of relief!

What is the bubonic plague?

With confirmed cases of bubonic plague in China, Google has been bothered millions of times a day with this question. Bubonic plague is a disease affecting the lymphatics, caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. The primary mode of transmission to humans is through flea bite or if contact with the infected animal’s body fluids/tissues.

The most common clinical manifestations include fever, malaise, chills, headache, cough, and swollen and painful lymph nodes called the buboes.

Bubonic plague is not a new disease.

From time to time, different continents face a handful of bubonic plague cases. It has been present for centuries. It was once known for killing millions in the 1300s in the Middle Eastern and the European region during the pandemic called the Black Death but has become rare in the current era. The mortality rate of bubonic plague has substantially decreased with the advent of antibiotics.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics, especially within the first 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, can effectively cure the disease without any complications. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the bloodstream and other organs like lungs. The disease may rapidly progress to sepsis and even death; therefore, prompt treatment is indispensable.

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Dr. Arsia Parekh
Dr. Arsia Hanif has been a meritorious Healthcare professional with a proven track record throughout her academic life securing first position in her MCAT examination and then, in 2017, she successfully completed her Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from Dow University of Health Sciences. She has had the opportunity to apply her theoretical knowledge to the real-life scenarios, as a House Officer (HO) serving at Civil Hospital. Whilst working at the Civil Hospital, she discovered that nothing satisfies her more than helping other humans in need and since then has made a commitment to implement her expertise in the field of medicine to cure the sick and regain the state of health and well-being. Being a Doctor is exactly what you’d think it’s like. She is the colleague at work that everyone wants to know but nobody wants to be. If you want to get something done, you approach her – everyone knows that! She is currently studying with Medical Council of Canada and aspires to be a leading Neurologist someday. Alongside, she has taken up medical writing to exercise her skills of delivering comprehensible version of the otherwise difficult medical literature. Her breaks comprise either of swimming, volunteering services at a Medical Camp or spending time with family.

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