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Bubonic plague death causes Chinese city to be sealed off

Acral gangrene or necrosis of a person's hand who contracted Y. pestis or bubonic plague
U.S. Centers for Disease Control

According to a recent news story on The Guardian, the Chinese city of Yumen has been sealed off and 151 residents have been placed in quarantine following a death due to bubonic plague. The Guardian reported that China Central Television (CCTV) said that the city of 30,000 was sealed off after a 38-year-old man died last week.

The man reportedly came into contact with a dead marmot, which is similar to a squirrel but there have not been any more reported cases of bubonic plague.

Yumen is located in the northwestern province of Gansu and according to reports, residents of the city are not being allowed to leave and motorists approaching Yumen are being met with police roadblocks and told to find alternative routes around the city. In addition, four quarantine sections have been set up within the city.

Chinese media is reporting that there are enough supplies of rice, flour, and oil for all residents of Yumen for one month.

Bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) is believed to have been responsible for the "Black Death" that swept through Europe during the 14th century -- killing 25 million people.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the plague is spread by bites from infected fleas and it can also be spread by touching animals infected with the disease -- which seems to be the case with the man in Yumen. The symptoms of bubonic plague area headache, fever, chills, weakness, swollen and painful lymph nodes. Other symptoms include acral gangrene or necrosis of extremities (fingers, toes, tip of nose, and lips), muscle cramps and seizures, vomiting blood, delirium, coma. Plague symptoms usually appear approximately 2-5 days after exposure. Treatment should be given within 24 hours of the first symptoms to prevent death.

To reduce risk of contracting bubonic plague in an area where it occurs, you should avoid touching dead animals, cover your skin to avoid exposure to bites from fleas and use insect repellent that will repel or kill fleas.

Contact Emergency Preparedness Examiner Tammy Lee Morris by emailing

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