Chinese authorities announced Tuesday that two people have been diagnosed with pneumonic plague at a hospital in Beijing — yes, as in the 'Black Death' which wiped out some 50 million of the world's population during the Middle Ages.
Alarmingly, it's the second instance of the plague hitting the region in a matter of months, after last May a Mongolian couple died from bubonic plague after consuming the raw kidney of a marmot, based on a local folk practice.
Officials say the two in this latest case also came from a remote area of Inner Mongolia in Northern China. To mitigate panic, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reportedly issued a public advisory to Beijing residents telling them the potential for contacting the disease is “extremely low,” according to The New York Times. Though considering this is literally the plague we doubt anyone will feel reassured by such official advisories.
The patients were quickly isolated by health officials after initial confusion over what they might be dealing with, and are reportedly being given treatment. Left untreated it will cause certain death, but some strains of the plague can be cured through careful administration of antibiotics, unavailable when it struck on a mass scale in medieval times.
The infected were initially treated at Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital, which caused a special alert to go out to city health personnel and placed the emergency room under complete lockdown. China's English news portal Caixin Global provided the following eyewitness details:
Chaoyang Hospital, where the two patients were treated, has replaced all the chairs at its emergency room, Caixin reporters witnessed.
The emergency room was in police blockade Monday night, people living nearby the hospital told Caixin. A resident medical school student at Chaoyang Hospital told Caixin that he received emergency notice from the school, asking them not to go to the emergency room in the following weeks.
Chaoyang Hospital told local media that the two patients have been transferred to another hospital, without disclosing the name of the hospital.
And FOX has further details as follows:
Dr. Li Jifeng at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, in the district where the patients sought treatment, said they came to the hospital on Nov. 3 but officials have not confirmed the claim, The Times reported.
Dr. Li wrote on WeChat that she treated a middle-aged man who had a persistent fever and cough, which his wife had also contracted.
“I couldn’t guess what pathogen caused this pneumonia. I only knew it was rare,” she wrote.
The pneumonic form of the plague is considered the most virulent and deadly, causing severe lung infection via bacterium, transmitted from small mammals and their fleas. The other forms are bubonic and septicemic — the former cause swollen lymph nodes and the latter infects the blood.
From 2010 to 2015, the World Health Organization reported a total of 3248 cases worldwide, including 584 deaths; however, there are concerns that not all cases have been reported, with China recently coming under fire over allegations of possibly withholding its true number of cases.
The WHO has now categorized the plague as a 're-emerging disease' given that some 50,000 human cases have been recorded in the past two decades.