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Two cases of pneumonic plague confirmed in Beijing

What you need to know about the disease

Two individuals from north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region have been treated after being diagnosed with pneumonic plague in Beijing this Tuesday, according to local health authorities.

The occurrence of the disease, with causes still unclear, says to follow an earlier case which was detected six months ago, when a Mongolian couple died of bubonic plague, reported CNN. Whether the two cases are linked is unconfirmed, however, the latest one has prompted Beijing authorities to issue a warning to citizens on taking precautions to protect themselves.

After triggering fears for risks of outbreaks, Chinese health authorities have assured chances of this case's transmission is 'extremely low', as 'preventive measures' are taken to ensure close monitoring of the patients' symptoms.

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Photo: Chaoyang district's official website

What is it?

As details remain unclear, here's what we know at the very least: the pneumonic plague is a severe lung infection caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. According to the World Health Organisation, it is one of two main forms of plague infections: the bubonic and pneumonic plague. The former is more common and is characterised by painful swollen lymph nodes or 'buboes'. Both are severe and curable when detected early, but when left untreated an individual with bubonic plague can develop pneumonic plague, which when left untreated can be fatal. In China, it is considered a Class A disease, the most serious classification in China's Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases.


For those who typically delay trips to the doctor, perhaps consider putting that aside for now, especially when you see these symptoms:
Shortness of breath;
Chest pain and
Cough (sometimes with bloody or watery sputum)

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the progression of the disease is as follows:
'With pneumonic plague, the first signs of illness are fever, headache, weakness, and rapidly developing pneumonia with shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and sometimes bloody or watery sputum. The pneumonia progresses for 2 to 4 days and may cause respiratory failure and shock.'

Incubation can be as short as 24 hours and symptoms typically appear three to seven days after exposure.

How it spreads, and how we can avoid it
The usual suspects on how the disease spreads include infected animals and other pneumonic plague patients. The plague is airborne and as China Daily reports, 'is considered as a most dangerous infectious disease by China's health authorities. The death rate from plague is almost 100 percent if not treated quickly. Patients can display symptoms such as high fever, severe headache and fall into unconsciousness.'
If you or your children start experiencing the symptoms we've mentioned earlier, we encourage you to pay your doctors a visit. The Chaoyang district's official website also recommends wearing a mask and washing one's hands frequently.

Sources: Official websites of WHO, Chaoyang district, Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention

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