An apparent outbreak of bubonic plague in China is being “well managed” and is not considered to represent a high risk, a World Health Organization (WHO) official has said.
Local authorities in the city of Bayannur in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia issued a warning on Sunday, one day after a hospital reported a case of suspected bubonic plague.
It followed four reported cases of plague in people there last November, including two of pneumonic plague, a deadlier variant.
“We are monitoring the outbreaks in China, we are watching that closely and in partnership with the Chinese authorities and Mongolian authorities,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a United Nations press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
“We are looking at the case numbers in China. It’s being well managed.”
“Bubonic plague has been with us and is always with us, for centuries,” she said, adding, “At the moment we are not … considering it high-risk.”
The bubonic plague, known as the Black Death in the Middle Ages, is a highly infectious and often fatal disease that is spread mostly by rodents.
Although the 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 UN health agency said it was notified by China on Monday 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 10 years.
“Bubonic plague is the most common form and is transmitted between animals and humans through the bite of infected fleas and direct contact with carcases of infected small animals. It is not easily transmitted between people.”
The man infected in Inner Mongolia was in stable condition at a hospital in Bayannur, the city health commission said in a statement.
Xinhua News Agency said in neighbouring 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.