A city in China has reportedly been sealed off after one resident died from bubonic plague, but this way of trying to contain the disease is puzzling to infectious disease experts, who say the response seems extreme given the information released about the case.
According to news reports, Chinese officials have blocked off parts of Yumen, a city in northwest China, preventing about 30,000 of the city’s people from leaving.
A man in the city became ill after he handled a dead marmot (a large wild rodent), and died last week from bubonic plague. No other cases of the plague have been reported, according to the Guardian. About 150 people who had contact with the plague victim have been placed under quarantine.
Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis that is carried by rodents, and can be transmitted to people through flea bites or by direct contact with the tissues or fluids of an animal with plague, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is known for killing millions of people in Europe in the 1300s, in a pandemic called the Black Death.
Today the illness is treatable with antibiotics, the CDC says. Now there are fewer than 5,000 cases of plague per year worldwide, with most cases occurring in Africa, according to the Mayo Clinic.