Authorities in northern Inner Mongolia, an autonomous province of China, stepped up precautions after it was confirmed that a pastor had contracted bubonic plague. There are already more suspected cases in neighboring Mongolia, a 15-year-old teenager.
The man who has already been confirmed to remain in stable condition in a hospital in Bayan Nur, the city health commission said in a statement.
Local authorities issued a level 3 alert, the second lowest in a four-level system. The notice will remain in effect until the end of the year, according to Xinhua.
The other suspicious case involves a 15-year-old teenager and was reported on Monday in Mongolia, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.
The boy had a fever after eating a groundhog that had been hunted by a dog, Xinhua said.
Two other cases were confirmed in Mongolia’s Khovd province last week, involving siblings who ate groundhog meat, the agency added.
About 146 people who came into contact with the two affected were quarantined.
In Bayan Nur, the health commission banned hunting and consumption of animals that may have the pest – mainly groundhogs – until the end of the year, and urged people to report dead or sick rodents.
The bacterium Yersinia pestis can be transmitted to humans from mice infected through fleas. Although the highly contagious plague is rare in China and can be treated, at least five people have died since 2014, according to the National Health Commission of China.
The plague, caused by bacteria and transmitted by bites from fleas and infected animals, killed about 50 million people in Europe during the Black Death pandemic in the Middle Ages. Modern antibiotics can prevent complications and deaths. Bubonic plague is one of the three forms of plague.
WHO says there is no high risk
“Bubonic plague has been with us for centuries,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters. “We are looking at the case numbers in China. You are being well accompanied. At the moment, we are not considering it high risk, but we are following it, monitoring it carefully “, he added, stressing that WHO is working in partnership with Chinese and Mongolian authorities.
The UN health agency said it was notified by China on July 6 of the case of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia.
Russia takes action
In neighboring countries precautions are taken. As a preventive measure, Russia has stepped up patrols to prevent people from hunting groundhogs near its border with China and Mongolia.
Officials in the Russian Altai region, which borders Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia, said officials were patrolling the area to impose a ban on hunting groundhogs and warning people of the dangers, the TASS news agency reported.
The local branch of Rospotrebnadzor, the body responsible for consumer health, said the cases across the border do not pose a threat to people in Altai, TASS said.