Pneumonic Plague Shakes Tibet

Liz De La Torre

As if it weren’t enough that flu season is kicking into high gear, now a sudden pneumonic outbreak is gripping Tibet and sending shockwaves across the world. Five people have already been infected with the disease, with the first case being discovered on September 23.

The plague, which occurs when bacteria infects the lungs, is currently being investigated for its cause, though it is speculated to be the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which is typically found in rats and other small rodents. In its initial appearance, the plague displays flu like symptoms, including fevers, headaches, weakness, and quickly advancing pneumonia. The disease can kill in as little as twenty-four hours if it remains untreated.

Since the recent outbreak, one of the afflicted individuals has died from lung contamination. With the exception of one of the infected people, the survivors are being treated and appear to be in stable condition. Because of the contagious nature of the plague and its easy transfer by way of certain climate and crowding factors, families and friends who have been in close contact with these survivors are also being quarantined.

Though precautions are being taken, Tibet is no stranger to plague outbreak. Authorities enclosed the 10,000-person Qinghai farming community for over a week last year when three out of the nine diseased people died. Currently, health officials are inspecting local residents and those leaving the community for additional traces of the pneumonic plague. In addition, authorities and medical experts are taking measures to educate people about the disease and ways to combat its spread.