Thousands of people have been placed under quarantine in a town in northwest China after a man died of pneumonic plague and 11 others were confirmed infected with the deadly lung infection, health authorities said.
The 32-year-old herdsman died in Ziketan in Qinghai province, the provincial health bureau said in a statement posted on its Web site Saturday. It did not say when he died.
Most of the others infected are relatives of the deceased and are in stable condition in a hospital, the bureau said. The town of 10,000 people has been placed under quarantine and a team of experts has been sent to the area, it said.
Pneumonic plague is spread through the air and can be passed from person to person through coughing, according to the World Health Organization. It is caused by the same bacteria that occurs in bubonic plague, the Black Death that killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages.
While bubonic plague, which is usually transmitted by flea bite, can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early, pneumonic plague is one of the deadliest infectious diseases. According to the WHO, humans can die within 24 hours of infection. The Qinghai health bureau statement warned that anyone who has visited Ziketan and surrounding areas since July 16 and has developed a fever or a cough should seek treatment at a hospital.