Two patients have been diagnosed in Beijing with the most dangerous form of the plague – the medieval disease also known as the Black Death.
The announcement sent shock waves rippling through China’s northeastern capital as authorities attempted to tamp down fears of an epidemic by censoring Chinese-language news of the hospitalization.
On Tuesday, Beijing authorities announced a municipal hospital had taken in a married couple from Inner Mongolia, a sparsely populated autonomous region in northwest China, seeking treatment for pneumonic plague. One patient is stable while the other is in critical condition but not deteriorating, according to Beijing’s health commission.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention assured the public on Weibo, a Chinese social media site that is the equivalent of Twitter, that chances of a plague outbreak are “extremely low.” The city’s health commission has quarantined the infected patients, provided preventative care for those exposed to the couple and sterilized the relevant medical facilities, the center said.
Police are also guarding the quarantined emergency room of Chaoyang hospital, where the infected patients were first received and diagnosed, according to Caixin, an independent Chinese news outlet.
Of the three versions of the disease, pneumonic plague is the only one that can be transmitted from one person to another by coughing, for example. The other variants are typically spread by infected fleas or animals.
Pneumonic plague has symptoms of respiratory failure similar to pneumonia. Left untreated, it is fatal.