Last week, China gave the world a bit of a scare when health officials in the country confirmed that two people had come down with the most deadly form of plague. The pneumonic plague, which is believed to be the variant that caused the Black Death pandemic, showed up in a husband and wife in a remote area of the country.
Now, China says a third person has also tested positive for the plague. What makes this news even more troubling is that the man apparently had no contact with the other two plague victims. The good news, if you can call it that, is that the man has the bubonic form of the illness.
Reports that have emerged since the news first broke paint a clearer picture of how China is handling the situation. The New York Times notes that the first two plague victims have been quarantined. One of the individuals is in stable condition while the other was said to be in critical condition.
The third case is a bit different. Unlike the two patients with pneumonic plague, a 55-year-old man in a different area of the country came down with the bubonic variant of the sickness. It is believed he contracted the plague after eating a wild rabbit that he had killed. The plague can spread to humans via wildlife, and contact with plague-positive animals like rabbits is a common avenue of infection.
Nearly 30 people who had contact with the man prior to his diagnosis were also quarantined, though they were free of symptoms and the infection is not believed to have spread.
Plague, especially the pneumonic variety, is potentially fatal if left untreated. It’s incredibly important that anyone who suspects they might have been infected get treated as soon as possible. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out, but health officials in China remain confident that the risk of a full-blown outbreak is very slim.