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The plague is diagnosed in China, prompting fear of an epidemic

PAGE – Two people in China have been diagnosed with the plague, with panic on Tuesday about the potential spread of a highly contagious and fatal disease and prompting the Chinese government to warn citizens to take precautionary measures.

Beijing officials said the two infected people came from Inner Mongolia, a sparsely populated region in northern China. They sought treatment Tuesday at a hospital in Beijing's Chaoyang district, where they were diagnosed with pneumonic plague, according to the district government.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told Weibo, the microblogging site, that Beijing residents did not need to panic and that the risks of further transmission were "extremely low." Authorities are rapidly isolating patients, conducting epidemiological studies of people who could be exposed and disinfected by all relevant sites, the CDC said, and they have stepped up monitoring of fever patients.

Pneumonic plague is one of the three types of infectious disease known as plague caused by the same bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Patients diagnosed with pneumonic plague, which causes high fever and shortness of breath, are sometimes first infected with a closely related and more commonly known disease – bubonic plague.

Fears are mounting in China about a possible outbreak of a disease known as the Black Death, which has killed tens of millions of people in medieval Europe and spread across Asia and Africa.

Last month, authorities in China said they would step up quarantine measures to prevent the plague from entering the country after Madagascar was hit by the rapidly growing outbreak of the disease. It's not clear when the cases were first discovered in China, but residents are asking why authorities took so long to diagnose and detect the problem.

Li Jifeng, a doctor at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, where the two sought treatment, wrote on social media platform WeChat that patients were seeking treatment on November 3. This post, which has since been deleted, was published by CN-Healthcare, a website that covers health news in China. Dr Li could not be reached for comment and Beijing Chaoyang Hospital declined to comment.

p. Li wrote that the patient she saw was a middle-aged man who had fever and complained of difficulty breathing for 10 days. He sought treatment at a hospital in Inner Mongolia, but his condition did not improve. His wife also developed fever and respiratory problems.

"After so many years of specialized training, I am familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of most respiratory diseases," Dr. Li writes. "But this time I looked and looked at him. I could not guess what pathogen caused this pneumonia. All I knew was that it was rare. "

For why it took the authorities so long to make the message, Dr. Li wrote that the signs of any infectious disease must be repeatedly checked and examined and such messages cannot be" accidentally transmitted. " . "

The police are quarantining the emergency ward at Chaoyang Hospital on Monday night, according to Caixin newsletter, citing residents.

On Tuesday, Chinese censors instructed online news aggregators in China to "block and control" an online discussion related to plague news, in accordance with a directive seen by The New York Times.

Skeptical Chinese Internet users have accused the government of delaying the breaking of news about the disease that is being transmitted between people and killing even faster than the more common bubonic form. China has a history of disguise and is slow to report infectious outbreaks, causing many to call for transparency this time around.

"The plague is not the most horrifying part," wrote one Weibo user. "Even more frightening is the information not to be made public."

If left untreated, pneumonic plague is always fatal, according to the World Health Organization. But recovery rates are high if detected and treated with antibiotics within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, the agency said.

Another Weibo user called on the government to disclose how patients arrive in Beijing from Inner Mongolia. If patients travel independently using public transportation, they could spread the disease to many people.

"How many people have met potentially?", Writes the user. "Only 2 kilometers from Chaoyang Hospital. Shivering and shaking.

According to the Chinese Health Commission, six people have died in the country since the plague of 2014. The latest case was registered earlier this year.

Officials warn people to avoid traveling to infected areas and contact with rodents.

Elsie Chen and Zou Mu contributed to the research.

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