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An Update on Bubonic Plague Outbreaks

By | Rachel Brooks

Contributor | Telegraph Local 

See the New African Living Standard 

Pictured above. Chaoyang hospital treated two patients from Mongolia who contracted the disease.

China has had an outbreak of the bubonic plague within the last month, citing Foreign Policy. China’s government, rather than issuing a direct response to public concerns about the disease, has instead led a fearful effort to control the public response. The Chinese Center for Disease Control took to social media to deny the disease would have a critical impact. Despite the growing pandemic of bacterial diseases coming out of China, citing NPR. 



China discovered this disease when Dr. Li Jefeng of Beijing Chaoyang Hosptial_the lead infectious disease and quarantine center_tended to a married couple gasping for breath. The couple had come down heavily under the Black Death. They’d sought treatment in their native Mongolia but were sent to Beijing for observation.


When Dr. Li attempted to post the story about the couple on WeChat, it was rapidly censored. The government then instructed the World Health Organization to wait until November 13 to report the disease_after it had already been blasted by reporters all over the world. 

China would not need to panic. The Yersinia pestis virus is highly treatable with antibiotics in 2019. What is the trouble is the government suppression of information. China well remembers the SARS epidemic of 2003. How that the government hid victims of the epidemic in the very hospital where Dr. Li now leads. How they pretended and denied that the SARS epidemic was going on. Now, with this outbreak, the question looms over China’s head. Could it escalate to the untreatable level because of government denialism?


Denialism of disease is the key reason why many nations are still plunged into the Dark Ages medically. 


Bubonic plague was responsible for the historical Renaissance Black Death_but then the Westernized world forgot about it. Madagascar lives with endemic Black Death. Yet, Madagascar_alone in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa_is only known to the West for lemurs and a CG-character movie of the same name. 


You’d be surprised then, perhaps, to learn that there is bubonic plague in the United States. Its highest resurgence of recent history was in 2015. Citing the CDC, almost “all” of the cases reported in the United States have happened in rural, agriculturally driven towns. Citing History.com, at the beginning of the 20th Century, when Wong Chut King died of bubonic plague in California, the US has denied the plague exists within its borders.


So, while most people again deny that bubonic plague could reach critical levels, remember that the last time it struck China was the 1850s. That last plague cost China and Asia 20 million people. Let us also realize that, while healthcare has advanced, healthcare is only as good as it is accessible. Bubonic plague has been underground for so long, the modern world may not even recognize it at first.


 Poor and rural Chinese farmers may not even seek treatment until the disease has advanced too much. The reason for this is that pneumonic plague symptoms are similar to pneumonia. It could even be mistaken for a bad case of pneumonia and be treated locally. Except that, it is a disease that requires specific antibiotics to fight.  The spread would then be because of the government’s denialism. Misinformation is the most likely reason why bubonic plague levels would ever escalate past the reported cases of Autumn 2019. 


Russia’s response to the bubonic plague is to tighten border control, citing the Moscow Times. Russia decided that they could not take the risk. When the borders closed, it left Russians traveling into China and Mongolia trapped outside where the plague could spark into something big, if left unchecked. Likewise, Russian consumer protection watchdog Rospotrebnzaor said they took “additional measures” at Chinese border checkpoints to reduce the risk of the plague spreading to Russia. 

The Chinese government also fought to slow the spread by establishing checkpoints and exterminating mass quantities of rats, citing Medical Xpress.


If you have traveled in Mongolia, or near Beijing in the past few weeks, and have returned home with shortness of breath, you should see a physician.

Bacterial plague, citing CDC, takes 3 forms. Bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic. Symptoms can be a little more subtle than shortness of breath. 

Bubonic means lymph nodes will swell to a large knot, usually near the groin, axilla, or cervical area. Septicemic plague is characterized by black patches of dying tissue on the skin. This form of plague passes from ticks and infected animals. Black patches are often the first symptom in this case.

Pneumonic plague is typically a rapid-building disease, but it can result from an untreated bubonic or septicemic plague. Pneumonic plague_which the CDC calls the most serious and infectious_is the only kind of plague that can pass via infectious droplets from person to person. Pneumonic plague is the type of plague that has been discovered in China. 


The CDC also states that if the plague infection early symptoms are untreated_the first type characterized by the bubo or knot_then it can result in septicemic and secondary pneumonic plague.

It is incredibly important to receive a proper diagnosis of the plague because the recommended antibiotic regimen will need to be adjusted on a case by case basis. See the reference regimen here. Some drugs, including Streptomycin, are not readily available in the US, so treatment with alternative drugs would have to be issued.  Only a trained physician can make that call_antibiotics for regular pneumonia would not necessarily work so it is critical to receive a proper diagnosis to stop the spread. 

Plague outbreaks don’t receive a meaningful scale report often. This is Outbreak News TV with more insights in this month-cycle of Plague. Other cases were reported in September that saw little public attention.


Global Times cites the first patient to be diagnosed with bubonic plague in Xiliin Gol League, Inner Mongolia, was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, December 16, 2019.



Citing the Epoch Times, the plague is attributed to Mongolia and China’s increasing rat problem. Rats can be transferred accidentally via shipping facilities. If you were recently exposed to rats, and have the above symptoms, speak with your physician. If you have been bitten by a rat, immediate physician care is recommended. 

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