Dozens of people in Yumen, China, located in northwestern Gansu province and bordering the restive Xinjiang province, have been quarantined by Chinese health authorities after a person died of bubonic plague. State media in China announced that a total of 151 people have been isolated in various areas of the town.
According to state-run Xinhua News Agency, the plague scare follows the July 16 death of an unidentified 38-year-old man who reportedly contracted the deadly infection after being in contact with a marmot. The marmot is a large, squirrel-like rodent found in mountainous regions. The hospital’s deputy head, Wei Li, told reporters that the man reportedly fed the dead marmot to his dog and then experienced an increased heart-rate and quickly slipped into shock. Wei Li and at least two other hospital workers have also been quarantined and are taking preventive medication.
In addition to the hospital, parts of the Yumen city center and three sections of a town called Chijin roughly an hour away have been isolated by authorities using at least 10 check points surrounding quarantine zones. The patients have now been confined for five days and do not appear to be exhibiting symptoms of the plague. If after a full nine days no secondary cases are found, local officials will consider lifting the quarantine. State media also reported that Gansu has seen at least five cases of the plague in the last 10 years.
In the United States, New Mexico's state Department of Health is dealing with a plague scare of its own. According to the Albuquerque Journal, on Monday a 43-year-old woman was hospitalized with the bubonic plague, the second case this year for the state. The woman was likely exposed to the disease when interacting with her dog, who likely brought in infected fleas after being exposed to dead animals outdoors.
According to the World Health Organization, the plague is one of the oldest identifiable disease known to man and is spread through rodents by fleas. Humans contract it by either being bit by infected fleas or handling hosts of infected fleas.