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Outbreak of bubonic plague confirmed in China

By
Elizabeth Shim
Chinese health authorities have confirmed two cases of the bubonic plague this week. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Chinese health authorities have confirmed two cases of the bubonic plague this week. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 13 (UPI) -- A deadly disease that once swept through Europe in the 14th century is being reported in rural north China.

Chinese authorities could be downplaying the scope of the disease, according to multiple South Korean press reports.

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Television networks KBS and JTBC reported Wednesday at least two patients with the bubonic plague have been hospitalized at Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital since Nov. 3.

The patients had been transferred from their place of origin, Inner Mongolia.

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China's state media has reported the patients are being treated for the bubonic plague, and that they are being "treated well" at a medical institution in Beijing.

Chinese health authorities are downplaying the disease and are allowing public access to the emergency room at Chaoyang Hospital, where the patients were recently treated. A person typically becomes ill with the plague two to six days after being infected, and someone exposed to the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, through the air can become ill within one to three days.

Chinese authorities have previously reported cases of the bubonic plague. In 2009, there were 12 confirmed cases of the plague; three people died. The following year, China claimed seven confirmed cases of the plague and two deaths. In 2014, there were three confirmed cases of the plague, and three people dead from the fatal disease, according to Chinese government statistics.

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The two patients admitted to the hospital in Beijing in early November are a middle age married couple, according to KBS.

The husband was ailing from a high fever, and his wife began to nurse him. Both people were infected, according to the report.

Chinese health officials have dismissed concerns the disease could further spread across the population, because there "have been no new patients in the last 10 days," JTBC reported.

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Possible lack of government transparency has triggered rumors on Chinese social media that claim the patient count is higher, and some people are already dead, according to KBS.

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