The Chinese authorities in the region of Inner Mongolia (Chinese autonomous region) have closed several tourist spots after a case of bubonic plague, also called the black death, was reported this week. As per the local reports the case was reported in Bayannur, which is located in the northwest of the capital Beijing.

A total of 34 people have been quarantined in neighboring Mongolia after the case in the Bayannur region, with the bubonic plague victim, a teenaged boy, currently being kept in isolation. As per state-run news agency Xinhua, five nearby grassland scenic points have now been shut down, while visitors are "strictly prohibited from entering the affected area and visiting the surrounding region."

Bubonic Plague
Bubonic plague bacteria under electronic microscope Pixabay

The authorities in inner Mongolia are also implementing stricter management of other grassland tourist spots to make sure that visitors don't feed or touch wild animals, and to decrease the population of rodents or fleas that may carry the plague.

Bubonic Plague in Bayannur

Hospital authorities informed the Bayannur officials of the suspected case on Saturday, July 4, and the next day the city was placed under a Level 3 warning for plague prevention. The teen diagnosed with the plague on Tuesday, July 7, is now in a stable condition revealed local reports.

The boy is believed to have fallen ill after eating a marmot, a small rodent that is a close relative of the groundhog and which was likely the carrier of the disease. According to a spokesperson from Inner Mongolia's ministry of health, as of July 7 the teen's condition has improved and there are reports that the fever has dropped and the pain in the axillary glands has decreased.

In addition, the spokesperson said, "We also took full control of 34 suspects in the first contact. Samples from the child will be flown in at 22:00 tonight for testing at the National Center for Communicable Diseases."

Plague and The World

The plague is caused by bacteria and can be transmitted through flea bites and infected animals. Plague is known for causing the most deadly pandemic in human history, called the Black Death, which caused around 50 million fatalities in Europe in the Middle Ages (between 5th and 15th century).

Bubonic plague, is a rare form of plague and it can cause painful, swollen lymph nodes, as well as fever, chills, and coughing. It is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis and can spread through contact with infected fleas.

Marmot
Marmot is eaten in some parts of China Wikimedia commons

As per the China Daily, World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring the situation in association with Chinese and Mongolian authorities. Meanwhile, the health authorities in Bayannur warned local residents to report findings of dead or sick marmots, and not to hunt, skin, or eat them.

While marmots are being eaten in some parts of China, after the new outbreak, experts revealed that the consumption of this wild animal had been linked to a smattering of other recent plague cases across the Chinese border in neighboring Mongolia. As of now, the authorities reported two confirmed bubonic plague cases last week and on Monday, July 6 one suspected case was recorded.

The new outbreak also forced Russian authorities to warn people living in Western Siberia against eating marmot meat in the wake of the cluster cases. As per Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti, the Russian Embassy in Mongolia said, "there are no grounds for serious concern" as the Mongolian authorities have already imposed travel restrictions and isolated all those infected individuals.

The Russian Embassy said, "There are natural foci (the bacteria, an animal reservoir, and a vector) of plague in Mongolia and the disease is spread by tarbagans (Mongolian marmots). The problem is that local residents who, despite all prohibitions and recommendations of local authorities, continue to hunt them and eat them, as this is a local delicacy."

Earlier a World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Mongolia, Sergei Diorditsu reportedly said that the province sees the seasonal outbreak of plague.