3 August 2009

Pneumonic plague outbreak in China

An outbreak of pneumonic plague has been reported in China, where the authorities have quarantined the town of Ziketan in Qinghai province, NW China. This is a predominately rural area where similar outbreaks have been reported in recent years. Two men died from the disease over the weekend.
The disease, a highly contagious form of plague, can be treated with antibiotics, but only if given early. It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is spread by rats and other rodents via the fleas which live on them. Unlike bubonic plague, this plague can be spread by human-to-human contact.

Ecoscene has a selection of images showing rats that could be used to illustrate this news item.

1 comment:

  1. A third person has now reportedly died from this rare but deadly infection. I've been in China for the last month on an agricultural consultancy, but nowhere near the quarantined area in Qinghai.

    Several outbreaks of the disease were reported in Qinghai and Tibet in the 80s when I was posted in China with the UN. In addition to fleas living on rats, the disease can be passed on by eating the flesh of infected marmots, which are common on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. The difference in term of public awareness between then and now, is that this time, the outbreak has been extensively covered in the Chinese and local English-language press.