The death of a 15-year old Mongolian boy has struck tension and apprehensions about the return of the infamous Bubonic Plague.  

Also known as the “Black Death” in history, the Bubonic Plague is one of the most common types of plagues caused by bacteria. It primarily affects the lymphatic system and spreads by bacteria residing in rodents. This bacterial infection causes inflammation of the lymph nodes and can be deadly if not treated with proper antibiotics. It is capable of spreading to other body parts quickly.

Last Incident of the Bubonic Plague

In the mid-1300s, a global epidemic of the “Black Death” devastated Europe and Asia. The plague reached Europe by 12 ships from the Black Sea. When the ships docked at the Sicilian port of Messina, most of the sailors were already dead and those who were alive were severely ill with black boils covering their bodies oozing blood and puss. The Sicilian authorities ordered the “death ships” to be taken out of the harbor at once as they beheld the horrific sight but it was too late. Over the next few years, the Black Death or the Bubonic Plague killed about 20 million people in Europe (about one-third of the continent’s population).

Even before the arrival of the “death ships”, the Europeans had heard about the “Great Pestilence” forming a deadly path across trade routes of Near and the Far East. The disease had already affected India, China, Egypt, Persia and Syria by the 1340s.

What are the Symptoms of Bubonic Plague or Black Death?

The symptoms are generally flu-like and start developing in about 2 to 3 days after contracting the infection. They include-

  • Chills,
  • Sudden onset of fever,
  • Muscle aches,
  • Fatigue,
  • Headaches,
  • Seizures.

Some individuals might also develop swollen lymph glands causing much pain, called buboes. About the size of a regular chicken egg, these swellings develop in the groin, armpit or neck. Perhaps the Bubonic Plague derives its name from the Buboes.

Spread of Disease

The “Black Death” is spread by contact or bite of infected fleas and rodents. However, the infection can also spread through contact with an infected person or animal. Consumption of an infected animal can make a person contract infection.

Recent Case of Black Death aka Bubonic Plague

A 15-year old boy of Western Mongolia died of Bubonic plague after consuming an infected marmot. This incident surfaced just 24 hours after a squirrel from Colorado, US, tested positive for the plague. Two other teenagers consuming the marmot are under treatment with antibiotics.

The government has imposed a quarantine on parts of Gobi-Altai province, the place of occurrence. Also, the health ministry stated that 15 people who had come in contact with the dead teenager are under treatment. The Mongolian government has also warned the general public against hunting and consumption of marmots as this bacterium is generally found in marmots and large rodents living in burrows of North Asian grasslands. The bacteria can also spread through wild animals of eastern Russia, Mongolia and northwestern China.

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