Two people in China were just diagnosed with the Black Death Plague


Black Plague under a microscope

Two people in China are being treated for the Black Death Plague. Authorities say it’s the second time the disease has been detected in the region since the Middle Ages when it killed over 50 million people. The Black Death Plague, caused by bacteria and transmitted through flea bites and infected animals, can develop in three different forms. Bubonic plague causes swollen lymph nodes; while septicemic plague infects the blood and pneumonic plague infects the lungs. According to the World Health Organization, the chinese patients have the Pneumonic plague which is more virulent and damaging. If left untreated it is always fatal.

In the United States, there has been anywhere from a few to a few dozen cases of plagues every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, two people in Colorado died from the plague, and the year before there were eight reported cases in the state. Since the Middle Ages we have developed antibiotics and medicines to treat the disease if caught early enough, but this does not mean the Plague is not gone. 

According to the CDC people most commonly get the disease after being bitten by a rodent or flea carrying the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Infected dogs and cats can also pass the disease to the owners. The bacteria persists because low levels circulate among populations of certain rodents, the CDC says. These infected animals and their fleas serve as long-term reservoirs for the bacteria. There is currently no effective vaccine against plague, but modern antibiotics can prevent complications and death if given quickly enough. However, a strain of bubonic plague with high-level resistance to the antibiotic streptomycin, which is usually the first-line treatment, was seen recently in Madagascar. The three most endemic countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Peru. 

 According to the CDC, key steps for prevention of the plague include eliminating nesting places for rodents around your home, sheds, garages and recreation areas by removing brush, rock piles, trash and excess firewood.. Report sick or dead animals to law enforcement or your local health officials, do not pick up or touch them yourself. If you absolutely must handle a sick or dead animal, wear gloves. If you follow these steps and procedures you should have no problem living your life plague free. 

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