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Monday, August 3, 2009


Thousands of people have been placed in quarantine in north-western China after two people died of pneumonic plague. At this time, the China Outbreak of Pneumonic Plague is limited to 10 people who are apparently relatives of those who died of Pneumonic Plague.

The Chinese government has not yet said when the man died but it has sealed off the town where the outbreak occurred. According to reports, there are enough supplies to feed the 10,000 or so people who live in the town of Ziketan, near Xinghai in Qinghai province, during the quarantine period.

Pneumonic plague is a virulent form Pneumonia. It can spread from person to person, or from animals to people. Initial symptoms of Pneumonic plague include fever, headache and shortness of breath. To reduce the chances of death as a result of Pneumonic plague, anyone infected with Pneumonic plague must receive treatment within 24 hours of when the first symptoms appear.

This Pneumonic plague outbreak in China comes just months after a worldwide outbreak of H1N1 Swine flu which originated from China and has also led to thousands of people being quarantined.

Early reports from the W.H.O. indicate this outbreak of pneumonic plague in China is unlikely to cause the mass fatalities associated with historical outbreaks.

While Pneumonic plague can kill 60 percent of its victims if left unchecked, early diagnosis and treatment of Pneumonic plague with generic antibiotics such as streptomycin and tetracycline cuts plague patients’ mortality rate to less than 15 percent. Pneumonic plague is the most serious and least common of three forms of the infectious disease. Plague is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria, found mainly in rodents, particularly rats, and in the fleas that feed on them.

Pneumonic plague, on the other hand, occurs when the bacteria infect the lungs, causing symptoms including fever, headache and weakness, and may lead to potentially fatal cases of pneumonia. In almost all cases, only the pneumonic form of plague can be passed from person to person.

Vivian Tan - spokeswoman for the WHO in China said “These things do happen sporadically in different countries. It’s not something we’re very worried about, but we are keeping an eye on it.”

Pneumonic Plague is not to be confused with the Black Plague which kill Millions. The Black Plague was initially spread by rats. This does not seem to be the case with this outbreak of Pneumonic Plague in China, although the W.H.O. is not taking any chances.

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