China records third case of plague this month

18 November 2019, 11:42 | Updated: 18 November 2019, 12:26

A 55-year-old man has become the third person to be diagnosed with a form of plague in China this month.

The unnamed man, from the rural village of Xilingol League, became infected with bubonic plague after killing and eating a wild rabbit on 5 November.

He is being treated at a hospital in the city of Huade in Inner Mongolia, a statement from the health authority in the region said.

The statement added that 28 people who had close contact with the man were quarantined, but none have a fever or are showing other plague symptoms.

Two patients, also from Xilingol League, were diagnosed with pneumonic plague in Beijing on 12 November.

Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is caused by the bite of an infected flea.

The bacteria travels to a lymph node which becomes inflamed and painful, causing a "bubo".

Pneumonic plague, the most severe form of the infection, can develop from bubonic plague and results in a lung infection, causing shortness of breath, headaches and coughing.

Both types of plague are caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, and the infections can be fatal in up to 90% of sufferers who are not treated.

The pneumonic variant - where the bacterium is breathed into the lungs - is more dangerous because it is spread through coughing.

Septicaemic plague is a rare third variant which infects the bloodstream.

China has largely eradicated plague, but occasional cases are still reported, especially among hunters who come into contact with fleas that carry the bacterium.

The last major known outbreak was in 2009, when several people died in the town of Ziketan in Qinghai province on the Tibetan Plateau.

Plague has killed tens of millions of people around the world in three major pandemics, with about a third of Europe's population wiped out in the 1300s by bubonic plague, known as the Black Death.

The bacterium is believed to have originated in Yunnan in southwest China, where it remains endemic.