See, many of us are super into new, hip pandemics like the coronavirus. How can we not be? Everyone's indoors, we're all sick of Zoom meetings, and we're all arguing with our parents to not go to the salon and to wear their goddamned masks. Thanks to shoddy responses from our government, it has become widespread and lethal, and it has captured the attention of the world.
But what if you're into the retro plagues of yesteryear? Especially if you're into plagues that killed a third of Europe during the Middle Ages? Well you're in luck because the Black Plague is gearing up for another tour.
A small city called Bayannur, which is located 550 miles northwest of Beijing in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, has become the first stop in the bubonic plague's revival. Chinese authorities have announced that a herdsman has contracted the disease and has warned the world to be ready for a “plague epidemic.”
“At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city,” the local health authority said, according to state-run newspaper China Daily. “The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly.”
So what is Bubonic plague? It's nasty little disease called caused by Yersinia pestis, a zoonotic bacteria which causes painful, swollen lymph nodes, as well as fever, chills, and coughing. Bubonic plague can be treated with antibiotics if caught early, but if untreated it is fatal in up to 60% of cases. Pneumonic plague, which infects the lungs, is a more severe form and is fatal in 90% of untreated cases. It is often transmitted by fleas on infected animals or by direct contact with infected tissue. Authorities have requested that anyone who sees a dead animal or comes in contact with anyone bearing symptoms to report it immediately.
The Black Death has been tied in with rats, who were the primary carriers of the disease back in ye olde Middle Ages, but this particular infection has been linked to marmots, a type of large ground squirrel that is eaten in some parts of China and neighboring Mongolia. Last May, a couple in neighboring Mongolia died from bubonic plague after eating the raw kidney of a marmot, which is a traditional remedy thought to bring good health, and in November, Beijing announced that two people in Inner Mongolia caught the pneumonic plague.