What is bubonic plague? Causes, symptoms, all you need to know
Photo By Inklein

On Sunday, China sounded an alert over a suspected case of bubonic plague, after Bayannur, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, announced a level III warning of plague prevention and control, state-run People’s Daily Online reported.

What is bubonic plague?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are two main clinical forms of plague infection: bubonic and pneumonic. Bubonic plague is the most common form and is characterized by painful swollen lymph nodes or 'buboes'.

It is a bacterial disease that is spread by fleas living on wild rodents such as marmots (large ground squirrels). It can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time.


Plague bacillus, Y. pestis, enters at the bite and travels through the lymphatic system to the nearest lymph node where it replicates itself. The lymph node then becomes inflamed, tense and painful, and is called a ‘bubo’.

At advanced stages of the infection the inflamed lymph nodes can turn into open sores filled with pus. Human to human transmission of bubonic plague is rare. Bubonic plague can advance and spread to the lungs, which is the more severe type of plague called pneumonic plague.

Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, chills, head and body aches, and weakness, vomiting and nausea.


Also known as ‘Black Death’, bubonic plague was a devastating global epidemic that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. It resulted in the deaths of up to 75–200 million people. It is reported to have travelled by merchants who travelled by the sea.

According to reports, the suspected bubonic plague case was reported on Saturday by a hospital in Bayannur. The local health authority announced that the warning period will continue until the end of 2020.

"At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly,” the local health authority said.

The confirmed cases are a 27-year-old resident and his 17-year-old brother, who are being treated at two separate hospitals in their province; it quoted a health official as saying.

The brothers ate marmot meat, the health official said, warning people not to eat marmot meat.

A total of 146 people who had contact with them have been isolated and treated at local hospitals, according to Narangerel.

In Madagascar, cases of bubonic plague are reported nearly every year, during the epidemic season (between September and April).

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal