Beijing – Two people in Beijing have been diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a rare case of a highly contagious disease that is fatal if left untreated. Local authorities said they were treated Tuesday at a hospital in the Chinese capital, home to more than 21 million people.
Pneumonic plague can be fatal within 24 to 72 hours and is the "most virulent form of plague," according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while the bubonic form is less dangerous.
Patients are from northwestern Inner Mongolia, district officials said in an online statement, adding that "appropriate prevention and control measures have been implemented."
The Beijing government did not respond to AFP's calls for comment, but the WHO confirmed. that the Chinese authorities had notified them of the plague.
"The (Chinese) National Health Commission is making efforts to limit and treat identified cases and strengthen surveillance," said Fabio Scano, coordinator at WHO China.
Scano told AFP that "the risk of transmission of the plague is close contact and we understand that they checked and managed. "
According to the WHO website, lung pneumonic plague is very contagious and" can cause severe epidemics by human-to-human contact through droplets in the air. "
Symptoms include fever, chills, vomiting and nausea.
On Weibo, similar to Twitter's social media platform, Chinese censors rubbed the hashtag "Beijing confirms that it is treating plague" as they tried to control discussions – and panic – about the disease.
"I just want to know how these two got to Beijing ?? posted by one user. "By train, plane, or did they drive themselves?"
"Bird flu in the year of the rooster … swine fever in the year of the pig," another wrote. "Next year is the year of the rat … the plague is coming."
The plague embryo Yersinia pestis can be transmitted to humans from infected rats through fleas.
In 2014, a person died of a plague in northwestern Gansu Province in China and151 people.
30,000 people living in Yumen, the city where the man died, were also prevented from leaving, with police on the road blocks being placed around the perimeter of the city.
According to the National Health Commission of China, a total of five people died from the plague between 2014 and September this year.
In May, a couple in neighboring Mongoliaafter eating a crude marmot kidney, triggering a quarantine that left tourists stranded in a remote area for days.
The plague, sometimes known as the Black Death, destroyed millions of people during the Middle Ages during widespread outbreaks in the mid-1300s. It is estimated to have claimed the lives of 60 percent of Europe's population, with some estimated to have reached 200 million deaths this century.
Although cases today are rare, a common misconception is that the plague has been wiped out. It is even known that there are cases in the US that are transmitted mainly through contact with wild rodents in the western states.