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Monday, Dec 09, 2019

China plague: One of two infected critical as Beijing tries to calm fears of outbreak

Both were infected in the Inner Mongolian province and sent to Beijing in an ambulance, state news agency, Xinhua said in a report on Thursday.

world Updated: Nov 15, 2019 01:15 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that Chinese health authorities had notified them of the two cases and shared relevant information.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that Chinese health authorities had notified them of the two cases and shared relevant information. (FILE PHOTO.)
         

One of the two patients diagnosed with the highly infectious pneumonic plague and undergoing treatment at a Beijing hospital is critically ill, local authorities said on Thursday, adding that the condition of the second patient was stable.

Both were infected in the Inner Mongolian province and sent to Beijing in an ambulance, state news agency, Xinhua said in a report on Thursday.

State media quoted health officials as saying the risk of an outbreak of pneumonic plague, which could prove fatal if left untreated, is minimal and all required precautions were being taken.

“Two pneumonic plague patients have been under proper treatment in Beijing, local health authorities said. One patient is in stable condition, and the other is critically ill but without further deterioration, according to the Beijing Municipal Health Commission,” the Xinhua report said.

“The two were sent by an Inner Mongolia local ambulance to a medical institution of Beijing’s Chaoyang District for medical treatment,” an official with the commission told the news agency.

“So far, people with close contact with the patients have been quarantined for medical observation in accordance with relevant provisions of the state, and none have reported fever or other abnormal symptoms,” it added.

As many as 11 top experts have been drawn in from various hospitals to form a guidance group.

“Relevant medical institutions are carrying out proper treatment of the two confirmed patients in accordance with the national plague diagnosis and treatment plan,” the People’s Daily newspaper, the Communist Party of China’s mouthpiece said.

Necessary precautions like isolating the patients and disinfection of hospital areas are being carried out.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that Chinese health authorities had notified them of the two cases and shared relevant information.

“The National Health Commission is implementing efforts to contain and treat the identified cases, and increasing surveillance. Close contacts of infected people are at risk of transmission of pulmonary plague. Chinese authorities have indicated that these contacts are being screened and managed,” spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic from WHO headquarters in Geneva told HT in an email.

“WHO in China remains in touch with their Chinese counterparts to monitor the situation,” Jasarevic said.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Reuters, said all those at risk of exposure to plague had been traced and treated, and hospitals had stepped up monitoring of those with similar symptoms.

Pneumonic plague is a lung disease spread mostly by rats, with death rates of close to 100 percent in humans if left untreated, Beijing health authorities said in a notice.

“The pneumonic form is invariably fatal unless treated early. It is especially contagious and can trigger severe epidemics through person-to-person contact via droplets in the air. From 2010 to 2015, there were 3248 cases reported worldwide, including 584 deaths,” the WHO said.

Plague epidemics have occurred in Africa, Asia, and South America; but since the 1990s, most human cases have occurred in Africa.

According to the WHO, the three most endemic countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Peru. In Madagascar cases of bubonic plague – another form -- are reported nearly every year, during the epidemic season (between September and April).