A Chinese city has been sealed off and 151 of its residents put in quarantine after a man died of bubonic plague last week, according to China Central Television (CCTV).
The death occurred on Wednesday in the town of Yumen in the northwestern province of Gansu. Although no new incidents have been reported since then, the town's 30,000 residents are currently not allowed to leave. China Daily newspaper said that "four quarantine sectors" had been set up in the city.
The police are positioned at roadblocks on the perimeter of the city, where they are telling motorists trying to enter the area that they must find alternative routes.
The report said that the 38-year-old victim had recently been in contact with a dead marmot: a small and furry creature that is related to squirrels. The rodents are found all over the grasslands in western China, and it is thought that it was through one of these that he contracted the disease.
The report also attempted to assuage any concerns about the conditions the residents are being held under. "The city has enough rice, flour and oil to supply all its residents for up to one month," it said. "Local residents and those in quarantine are all in stable condition."
The last time an outbreak of plague occurred in China was in August 2009 in the western Qinghai province. According to the World Health Organisation, it was pneumonic plague – a slightly different version of the disease. An epidemiological investigation has indicated that it was also caused by a wild marmot.
Class A infectious disease
Bubonic plague is a bacterial infection that is rarely found in humans. It is most well known for causing the “Black Death” in the 14th century. This virulent epidemic led to the deaths of tens of millions of people across Europe.
It is an extremely dangerous disease that can lead to death within 24 hours of becoming infected.
In China it is classified as a Class A infectious disease: "the most serious under China's Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases", according to the official news agency Xinhua.
On its website, the US Centers for Disease Control has written that modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague, but that without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death.
"Human plague infections continue to occur in the western United States, but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia," it adds.