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WHO monitoring China’s bubonic plague, says situation is ‘well-managed’

Published: Updated:

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday it was monitoring a case of bubonic plague in China after being notified by the authorities in Beijing.

A herdsman in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region was confirmed at the weekend to have the bubonic plague.

Two other cases were confirmed in Khovd province in neighbouring Mongolia last week involving brothers who had eaten marmot meat, China’s state news agency Xinhua said.

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“Bubonic plague has been with us and is always with us, for centuries,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters at a virtual briefing.

“We are looking at the case numbers in China. It’s being well managed.

“At the moment, we are not considering it high-risk but we’re watching it, monitoring it carefully.”

She said the WHO was working in partnership with the Chinese and Mongolian authorities.

The UN health agency said it was notified by China on July 6 of a case of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia.

“Plague is rare, typically found in selected geographical areas across the globe where it is still endemic,” the agency said, adding that sporadic cases of plague have been reported in China over the last decade.

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“Bubonic plague is the most common form and is transmitted between animals and humans through the bite of infected fleas and direct contact with carcasses of infected small animals. It is not easily transmitted between people.”

Though the highly-contagious plague is rare in China and can be treated, at least five people have died from it since 2014, according to China’s National Health Commission.

The man infected in Inner Mongolia was in stable condition at a hospital in Bayannur, the city health commission said in a statement.

Xinhua said that in neighboring Mongolia, another suspected case, involving a 15-year-old boy who had a fever after eating a marmot hunted by a dog, was reported on Monday.