Black Death Strikes Again

Black Death Strikes Again

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Inner Mongolia, China

Cristal M Clark 

Sometimes when things make a comeback, such as fashion from the 70’s we love it, big hair from the 80’s not so much. 

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The same can be said for the Black Death, yes the plague, you know the disease that wiped out roughly one third of Europe way back in the 14th century, well it  has made an unsurprising comeback, this time in China. In fact, it has sickened two individuals in Inner Mongolia, which just so happens to be an autonomous region of northern China.

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Truthfully, the plague has never really been wiped out entirely, the World Health Organization reports that they see between 1,000 and 2,000 reported cases a year. 

So what’s the deal? Why is the news blowing this up now?

Well, the middle-aged married couple afflicted with the plague currently has a virulent version of the infection called pneumonic plague. Pneumonic plague is nearly always fatal if not properly treated.

In most cases when individuals are infected with the plague with the proper prompt treatment it is resolved. 

There are 3 variants of plague, with the most common being that of the bubonic plague, which has a mortality rate of 1 to 15 percent if treated immediately, but it’s fairly hard to really determine the proper death rate because cases in the developing world aren’t often reliably diagnosed as you might imagine. 

Then we have septicemic plague, which can develop if bubonic plague is left untreated. 2 Mongolians were got the plague back in May after they ate the raw kidney of a marmot, that couple subsequently died of septicemic plague. Ironically, in the region it is believed eating  the raw innards of a marmot will bring someone good health.

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Lastly, the least common  and most deadly variant of the plague happens to be pneumonic, which the 2 patients from Inner Mongolia are experiencing. That infection, which can result from untreated plague that’s spread to the lungs, can spread through airborne droplets.

This variant is what nightmares have been made from, the infected individual will develop intensely painful, red “buboes” around the site of their infection which are really just swollen lymph nodes doing what they do, try to rid the body of the bacteria responsible for the illness. 

The buboes are followed by a high fever, chills, and extreme weakness. Then the plague circulates to the bloodstream or the lungs it will cause the unsightly blackening and dead skin.

The United States reports about 7 human plague cases each year, usually just the bubonic form.

And so far, no vaccine exists which can protect anyone from the plague. 

Cristal M Clark

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