Science & Technology
Outbreak of the Black Death reported in China
November 21, 2019 | 28 comments
The Black Death was typically spread by rats. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Chris Barber
A resurgence of the bubonic plague in China has been raising eyebrows this week, but just how dangerous is it?
One of the deadliest pandemics in history, the Black Death resulted in the deaths of up to 200 million people in Europe at its peak in the 14th Century, a figure equivalent to up to 60% of the population.
These days most people think of the Black Death as a historical malady - something that couldn't possibly happen now - but just this past Saturday, a hunter in China was diagnosed with the bubonic plague after catching and eating an infected wild rabbit.
A total of 28 people who had come into contact with him have since been quarantined.
On top of that, two other cases have also been reported in Beijing.
So is this the beginning of a major new outbreak or have advances in science and medicine sufficiently prepared us to deal with such a situation ?
"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," said Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda of Stanford Health Care. "We know how to prevent it - avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission."
"We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."
In addition to this, these days the Black Death is incredibly rare. There are typically only a few thousand cases each year and most of those occur in Africa, India and Peru.
In the United States, there are typically fewer than seven cases annually.
All things considered, the plague isn't something you should be losing any sleep over.
| Comments (28)