back to article China seals town after plague deaths

Chinese health officials have sealed off a town in a sparsely populated area of north-central China to halt the spread of an aggressively deadly strain of plague. As of Sunday, two men have died from the outbreak, and another 10 - most of them relatives of the first dead man - are under quarantine. The disease is pneumonic …


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  1. PPPie


    According to the CDC website it's broken out a couple of times in the USA too.

    But knowing how Chinese often forget to cover their mouths when coughing this has the potential to wipe out millions in a dense city.

  2. David Moore


    Am I the only one that felt they were in the beginning of a '28 days later' style Hollywood montage (explaining the beginning of the end) while they were reading this?


    I'm SURE the Chinese are capable of keeping it within that village, and I'm sure they'd tell us all immediately if they didn't.

    Beer, because I need one.

  3. Swarthy Silver badge

    Ring around the Rosey

    Pocket full of posies....

    I wonder how the price of certain flowers re doing over there?

  4. blackworx


    Bring out yer dead!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Sure it is...

    This is just the sort of cover story you would expect to see when a level 1 zombie outbreak is in the works. I welcome our new flesh eating, shambling over... *OW* Steve from the next cube just bit me!!!

    AC, because two in the head....

  6. ElNumbre

    Good News!

    At least we don't have to worry about Swine Flu or SARS any more!

    Mines the coat with the toucan style nose mask in the pocket.

  7. Cucumber C Face

    @David Moore

    >>I'm SURE the Chinese are capable of keeping it within that village, and I'm sure they'd tell us all immediately if they didn't.<<

    Have no fear. Standard containment measures are doubtless swinging into action i.e. Chinese Army murders anyone that moves q.v. Tianamen, Tibet, Xinjiang....

  8. blackworx

    And am I the only one who thinks

    that photo of Jupiter looks like a jaundiced fat man's navel?

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I smell a rat

    Maybe I'm being paranoid but is it just me or does the fact that this is in Tibet ring alarm bells ... I wonder out of those 10 people how many are chinese, and how many will be Tibetan, also what proportion of these people are involved in promoting a free Tibet?

    Mine's the one with the lithium in the pocket!

  10. I didn't do IT.

    Geographic Infection Vector

    Anyone else notice that this spot is 1.5 mi to a river, in the middle of a lot of farmland.

    So, no worries about runoff from the population into the river to the rest of the country, eh?

    Right? Where is everyone?...

  11. Number6
    IT Angle

    Anti-Virus Software

    See, this is what happens when you concentrate on avoiding viruses; you get done in by bacteria instead.

  12. neb
    Black Helicopters

    @Anonymous Coward 19:49

    This is how it starts... time to break out the lobo's boys, we got zeds coming to dinner and we're the main course!

  13. Ke


  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    I wonder what really happened. maybe they decided they want to get rid of that village for some other reason.

    Reg needs a tinfoil hat icon, ill use Paris because she has spread something.

  15. Anton Ivanov


    Re: I smell a rat #

    You better not. That is _ONE_ thing you do not want to smell in a plague area.

    Re: Geographic Infection Vector #

    Plague has very low incidence of stomach infections. They are known, but rare. So run-off is not very irrelevant.

    Re: @Anonymous Coward 19:49 #

    Wrong, this is how it _STARTED_, every time. When we compare Chinese and European historical records we can see that every single major plague pandemic for the last 2000 years started somewhere around that region. Be afraid, be very afraid. By the way I am not joking.

  16. Jay Castle

    @ blackworx

    Not anymore. Thanks for that, I was eating breakfast.........

  17. pctechxp

    Swine flu, plague

    time to get that underground bunker dug equipped with fibre of course.

  18. Shaun 7
    Dead Vulture

    Randall Flagg is on the road

    I'm stocking up on pointy things in case this is World war Z, but hang on I can distinctly hear the strains of 'Don't Fear the Reaper' by the Blue Oyster Cult......


  19. Thomas 18


    If it kills in a day then it's not going to spread very far is it, especially if your presumably bedridden for half of it.

  20. Lee Sexton 1

    Wonder if

    It can be spread by materials? Get a lot of stuff from China these days lol. Ach we're all doomed :p

  21. Russell Brown


    I think it CAN kill within a day of displaying symptoms. More usually its 2-3 days. Hooray, right?

    No, actually.

    IIRC there is a prodrome of a few days with mild flu-like symptoms before you get the pneumonia. You are still infectious even though you're walking around saying to your family and co-workers "It's just a cold, really, stop making a fuss".

  22. H 5

    "Take off, and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

    It is airborne and there is no mention of its incubation period. So the fact that it can kill within a day doesnt mean it can only spread within that day.

  23. Ed Blackshaw

    You can't spell pandemic without panic

    This is an easily treatable bacterial infection which alsmot certainly has no resistance to any number of modern antibiotics. The reason that it is killing people in China is probably that they are Tibetans and they are living in squalor with no access to proper healthcare. The Han Chinese are probably not particulalry bothered by this.

  24. CD001

    weirdly enough...

    They WERE playing 'Don't Fear the Reaper' on the radio on my drive into work yesterday...

    Hmmm actually, we've got similar weather conditions to those experienced (in Britain) in 1348 apparently, a very wet summer in a period of rapid climate change and now a similar disease (ok, the same disease - bubonic and pneumonic plagues were involved in "the great mortality" from what I've read) originating from a similar sort of region - well, it started in the east and moved westwards.

    WE'RE ALL DOOMED!!!!!11!!!1!!1!

    Can I has grant nao plz?

  25. Mister Cheese

    @Ed Blackshaw

    ...except you potentially have only 24 hours from infection to death...

  26. Ed Blackshaw
    Thumb Up

    @Mister Cheese

    You potentially only have 24 hours from first displaying symptoms to death, as pointed out by several people above. The lower end of this would apply to the young, elderly, and those who are already weakened by other conditions. In this, and I would imagine, most developed countries, if one person were to fall ill, or die from it, everyone they had been in contact with in the last week would most likley end up in hospital on IV antibiotics whether or not they displayed any symptoms. The reasons it killed so many in the dark ages were that mode of infection was not understood and that sanitation and antibiotics were not available. The fact that it is killing people today suggests that those falling ill form it are living in similiar conditions. Personally, I'd be much more concerned about being done in by some cock in an Audi who can't be bothered to check his blind spot before changing lanes without indicating.

  27. Tsu Dho Nimh
    Black Helicopters

    it's containable

    Geo runoff guy ... not a problem. This is airborne, not fecal.

    Pneumonic plague - because it is so fast to kill people, and has a short incubation period - is relatively easy to control with a tight quarantine. Antibiotics can get the death rate to below 20% if you give them soon enough, but stopping the P2P spread is the key to control.

    Look up "Controlling Pneumonic Plague in China" at Google and take the link to my article at Associated Content. It has excerpts from the way they did it in 1910. No antibiotics, no O2, no respirators, no IVs. But they managed to keep it from reaching Peking, and kept it from killing most or all of the city of Mukden.

  28. Luther Blissett
    Black Helicopters

    I wonder why

    The article included the Black Death. Pneumonic plague has to be distinguished from bubonic plague. But the facts of Black Death do not justify a conclusion that it was bubonic plague.

    Of course, there are other black things that do cause death. Like ummm you know whats for starters.

  29. call me scruffy

    This is how western society will crumble.

    UK: "No of course, we don't mean that shitty little chavs will have to stop spitting at people on street corners"

    China: "Stop doing that"

    Shity little chavs: "Hawk, spit"

    China: "Here's the bill for the bullet we put in the shitty little chav you gave birth to."

    At the end of days, you have to be brutally firm, to be in any way fair.

  30. I didn't do IT.

    Geographic II

    Sorry, I was not inferring that any product from the gastrointestinal system would be the cause of worry from runoff. This bacteria, that infects the moist lungs, spreads about by coughing up the bacteria and dispersing into the air, protected by being encased in little droplets of spittle. No fear of this getting into the wet, moist squallorly conditions that (as other commentors claim) _must_ exist for this to be an issue in the first place and being spread by other, natural water distribution? No need to worry about it spreading through water borne pathologies?

    Cool, then.

    Of course, the CDC tells how infection can occur from any Y. Pestis contaminated material (including water) entering the bloodstream from any break in the skin, causing "bubonic", which then becomes "pneumonic" when it inevtiably enters the lungs. Anyone drinking contaminated water would bypass the bloodstream, not passing go, and be pulled into the lungs at the next breath. Although it does state that drying the bacteria or sunlight will kill off the bacteria, it needs to be about an hour to do the job. So, any spittle coughed up, wiped off, and washed off that gets rinsed or otherwise deposited with the "squallor" can get washed away. The issue is that it could have happened before symptoms started showing and the Chinese government reacted.

  31. Tsu Dho Nimh

    Not waterborne!

    "No need to worry about it spreading through water borne pathologies?"

    Nope. Unless you were bleeding large numbers of plague victims into the local water supply and then bathing in it immediately. Even then, it wouldn't transmit as pneumonic. What little I could find on accidental infection of wounds by pneumonic plague bacteria indicates it reverts to bubonic because of the mode of entry.

    Most pneumonic plague starts when someone is butchering an infected animal and inhales the inevitable spray of contaminated particles of blood and body fluids. In the most recent case in USA a wildlife biologist in Arizona was cutting up a mountain lion (puma, cougar) he had found dead. Cat died of pneumonic plague, and so did the biologist. His roommate found him dead on the couch - roommate didn't get sick.

    There is little prodromal period with pneumonic plague, not even much coughing until you have keeled over (severe prostration = too weak to move) which is why prompt isolation of the sick and their immediate contacts is extremely effective. Standard biohazard precautions (gloves, masks, etc.) apply.

    From a 1922 medical book: "The onset is usually sudden, with a rapid rise of fever, frequently accompanied by a severe chill or chills, and rapidly followed by intense headache, general body pains, vomiting, and severe prostration. The fever is high and usually irregular, occasionally intermittent; the pulse weak, of low tension, and rapid. The heart is weak and, owing to a compensating emphysema, may present a diminished area of dulness. Again, owing to dilatation of the heart, increased dulness especially to the right side may be noted. The spleen is enlarged in the majority of cases. The respiration is rapid, reaching 75 or over per minute. Cyanosis is usually marked."

  32. Peter Mellor

    Alternative explanations for the Black Death

    Some years ago, two researchers published a paper and a book, arguing that the Black Death in the Middle Ages could not have been bubonic plague. There was an article in the New Scientist summarising their arguments. These were serious epidemiologists, publishing in respected journals: this is not a "nutcase" viewpoint. (I can't find the references to this work right now.)

    Their argument was based upon the rate at which the epidemic (not pandemic) spread, and the symptoms of the disease as recorded in contemporaneous documents. They analysed records of outbreaks of bubonic plague on the Indian subcontinent in the 19th Century (i.e., during the British Raj, when good records were kept), and compared these with historical accounts of the Black Death. In the 19th C outbreaks, the spread from town to town was slower, and the infection and mortality rates were much lower than those of the Black Death. (This was despite the fact that infected individuals could not be effectively treated, given that antibiotics were not discovered until at least a century later.) Recall that the Black Death wiped out ONE THIRD of the population of Europe at the time.

    The alternative hypothesis that these researchers proposed was that the Black Death was not due to Yersinia pestis, but was an epidemic of a haemorrhagic fever of the Ebola or Marburg variety, originating in Africa. Given that the Black Death was reputed to have been spread by warriors returning from the Crusades (with contacts in the Middle East, and hence in North Africa), the transmission route is at least plausible. The researchers cited earlier accounts of similar plagues in classical Greece as evidence that these diseases could spread to Europe. The incubation period and infection rates deduced from historical records were about right for the spread of an Ebola-type disease. Also, Ebola-type diseases can be contracted from contact with inanimate objects handled by infected persons or exposed to infected animals. I think that this is not true of bubonic plague.

    Objections have been published; in particular, that infected fleas (the vector for bubonic plague) could have travelled faster than their rat or human hosts. The research is interesting, but still controversial. I would be interested to read any comments from knowledgeable epidemiologists.

  33. Lionel Baden
    Dead Vulture

    @those with alot of faith in our modern understanding of medicine

    I will not be letting my children leave the house !!!

    Lets not forget the countless cases of people getting ill in hospital at flu time

    I was in a hospital last year with a collapsed lung waiting to get transferred for an op when 90% of the wards were quarantined because they couldnt stop the FLU.

    Luckily i was in the last clean ward and got transfered the day the bloke at the end of the ward started vommiting.

    this is not a diss at the healthcare system and the nurses doctors cleaners etc ... they do a bloody difficult job.

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