An outbreak of plague in northwest China that killed eight
villagers is reportedly now under control.
Nineteen plague cases were reported across four counties in the
central and eastern parts of Qinghai
Province between October 4 and 9, said a Ministry of Health
spokesman yesterday, but no outbreaks had been detected in other
A circular issued by the provincial health bureau on Wednesday
said that the 11 who survived have all fully recovered.
The majority of the infected were farmers and herdsmen who had
caught the disease after killing or eating wild marmots, says the
circular. However, the cause of several cases in Nangqen County is
still under investigation.
The counties of Ulan, Huangyuan and Madoi have lifted their
quarantines, and Nangqen is expected to come out of isolation
After the outbreak, the Ministry of Health sent a team to
affected areas to offer medical guidance, said the spokesman.
The Qinghai Provincial Health Bureau also took a series of
measures to distribute medicine and curb the spread of the disease,
as well as strengthening supervision of the marmot market.
Marmots are related to gophers and prairie dogs and live in the
grasslands of China's northwestern regions and Mongolia, where
villagers often hunt them for meat. The strain of bubonic plague
that occurs amongst marmots is generally thought to be the most
Previously, in late August, the Ministry of Health had reported
two plague cases, including one death, in Qinghai and neighboring
Plague describes three main clinical forms of disease caused by
the bacterium Yersinia pestis: bubonic, septicaemic and pneumonic
plague. They are transmitted by fleas from infected rats or from
infected blood or tissue and, in the case of pneumonic plague,
close person-to-person contact.
Bubonic plague, the most common form, can cause high fever,
delirium and swollen lymph nodes and is fatal in 50 to 60 percent
of cases without timely treatment. The other two forms are
invariably fatal if untreated.
The ministry spokesman said some grassroots medical workers are
not aware enough of the importance of plague prevention and control
but that they have ordered local health authorities to improve
monitoring systems and draw up an emergency plan against
Cases of rats and marmots dying of plague, suspected plague
patients and cases of high-fever without a known cause must all be
reported to the ministry immediately, said the spokesman.
(China Daily October 29, 2004)