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Bloomberg Examines China Plague Cases, Potential For Disease Spread

“Plague-spreading fleas are expanding their territory, putting more people at risk of catching the lethal illness, a WHO official said,” Bloomberg reports, in an article that examines the recent deaths of three people in China from the pneumonic plague. Bloomberg writes, “Centuries after bubonic plague, the most common form, killed millions in medieval Europe, the scourge remains entrenched in parts of Africa, Asia and the Americas.”

A combination of widening areas for the virus to circulate via rats and their fleas as well as “increased human activity in central Asia and other affected areas is heightening the risk of human infection, said Eric Bertherat, a WHO doctor who has investigated outbreaks for eight years,” the news service writes.  “We can expect more sporadic human cases in the future,” according to Bertherat. “While plague is one of the most deadly infectious diseases, early diagnosis and treatment with generic antibiotics such as streptomycin and tetracycline cut patients’ mortality rate to less than 15 percent, according to the WHO,” however, “[w]hen left unchecked, infection with pneumonic plague is almost always fatal, sometimes a day after symptoms begin,” Bloomberg writes.

The article includes information about the development of vaccines to protect against plague pneumonia and the recent history of cases in China (Gale, 8/6).

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