July 6, 2020 -- On Sunday, a herder in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague, according to an announcement from Chinese health officials. The patient has been isolated, is stable, and is being treated in a local hospital.
Before visiting the Wulat Zhongqi People’s Hospital, he had been “active” in the plague epidemic area, according to the statement by the Bayannaoer City Health Commission.
The bubonic plague, which caused the Black Death in the Middle Ages, comes from a bacteria called Yersinia pestis, according to the CDC. It’s typically transmitted by fleas, which are infected by rodents. In Inner Mongolia, those rodents are often marmots in rural areas.
The commission issued a third-level alert, which is the second-lowest alert in a four-level system, according to The New York Times. This reminds people not to hunt, eat, domesticate, or transport epidemic-related animals, especially marmots or other rodents.
The alert also urges people to report any sick or dead marmots in the area, as well as any people who may have been near infected animals or have a high fever. Officials also suggested maintaining hygiene habits, avoiding crowded places, and wearing a mask if sick with a fever, cough, or other symptoms.
The commission also says plague prevention measures are in place and would remain in place for the rest of the year.
On Monday, Mongolia lifted restrictions in its Khovd Province after two cases of the plague were reported a week ago, according to the newspaper. The cases were linked to the consumption of marmot meat. The patients have improved, health officials say.
The bubonic plague can be treated with antibiotics, according to the CDC. If untreated, the disease can cause serious illness or death. Plague infections still happen in rural areas in the western U.S. but are rare. Symptoms include a fever, headache, chills, weakness, and swollen, tender lymph nodes.
About seven human cases are reported in the U.S. each year. Most happen in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, southern Oregon, western Nevada, and parts of California, according to a CDC map.