Bubonic plague, better known to you and I as the Black Death, has a terrifying reputation. When one of your symptoms is gangrene, that will generally terrify people. And now China is sealing off an entire city to prevent an outbreak.
The good news, according to the Guardian, is that no further cases beyond the first death have been reported. The bad news is, well, it’s the freakin’ plague and it’s in a city of 30,000 people:
A 38-year-old man died last Wednesday, the report said, after he had been in contact with a dead marmot, a small furry animal related to the squirrel. No further plague cases have been reported.
CCTV said officials were not allowing anyone to leave. The China Daily newspaper said four quarantine sectors had been set up in the city. “The city has enough rice, flour and oil to supply all its residents for up to one month,” CCTV added. “Local residents and those in quarantine are all in stable condition.” No further cases have been reported.
First of all, it’s nice to know the Chinese citizenry missed the memo about not handling dead things without proper protective gear. Haven’t these people ever seen a zombie movie? Secondly, while we do have things that medieval Europe didn’t, like antibiotics, the problem is really one of speed and efficiency; you’ve got to get treated fast with the bubonic plague, or you’re going to die. It didn’t kill 30% to 60% of Europe because it dawdled.
Fortunately, this does not appear to be a case where the Chinese media is lying and we have to worry about a modern pandemic. It mostly appears to be a preventative measure because, well, a disease that eats your face and kills you is something public health authorities take seriously. Mostly, it’s a reminder to be safe, and possibly avoid marmots. Squirrels are bad enough.