Deadliest Plague In History Is Back

Two people in China are being treated for plague, according to authorities said Nov. 12


Emily Coffin

In the inner part of Mongolia there are a few cases of the plague. Though the risk of spreading is “extremely low.”

Emily Coffin, Reporter

The Black Death was one of the most devastating times in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people. 

Evolutionary theory tells us that a pathogen that kills all its victims will eventually run out of victims, leading to its own extinction. A combination of antibiotics and improved living conditions have made plague rare today.

Two people in China are being treated for plague, according to authorities said Nov. 12. According to an article by CNN, this is currently the second time this disease – the same one that caused the Black Death, one of the deadliest pandemics in human history – has been detected in the region.

Beijing officials said the two infected people came from Inner Mongolia, a sparsely populated region of northern China.

How did this plague come back to life though? The plague is caused by bacteria called Yersinia pestis found mainly in rats and in the fleas that feed on them.

During the Middle Ages, plague outbreaks corrupted Europe, killing around 50 million people. From 2010 to 2015, more than 3,248 cases were recorded worldwide, including 584 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. 

In the United States, there have been a few dozen cases of plague every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Now the big question is, How do you get plague? And is it curable? According to the CDC, people usually get plague after being bitten by a rodent carrying the bacteria. Several antibiotics are effective for treatment, including streptomycin, gentamicin, and doxycycline. Without treatment, plague results in the death of 30% to 90% of those infected. Death, if it occurs, is typically within ten days.

A suggestion by a 2018 study, “it’s not just rats that are responsible, the Black Death may have spread by human fleas and body lice.” Key tips for prevention of plague are getting rid of nesting places for rodents around your home, sheds, garages and other areas by removing trash or excess firewood. 

Although sickness with the plague is easy to treat with antibiotics, considering its rarity, diagnosis may be difficult for physicians. As the recent cases are located in China, there’s always a chance that a deadly disease will arrive in the country.