Chinese Citizen Contracts Bubonic Plague After Eating Wild Hare

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
November 17, 2019 Updated: November 17, 2019

The Chinese regime has confirmed a third plague case, after a patient who cooked and consumed a wild hare was diagnosed with bubonic plague on Nov. 16.

Earlier this week, a couple was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, but authorities have said the two instances aren’t related.

Recent Cases

Chinese state-run media Xinhua reported on Nov. 17 that the new patient works in the Bayin Tara Sumu Quarry in Xianghuangqi, in the Xilin Gol region of Inner Mongolia.

The patient ate the hare at the quarry on Nov. 5, but it was unclear whether he had hunted the animal himself or found the animal after it died. The patient then came down with a fever and was diagnosed with bubonic plague; he’s being treated at a hospital in Huade County in Inner Mongolia, according to the report.

The patient came into close contact with 28 people, all of whom have been quarantined to monitor for potential contagion; none have developed a fever, according to the report.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people can contract bubonic or septicemic plague from being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with the plague. Pneumonic plague is the most serious form and is the only form that can be directly spread from person to person. Today, the illnesses can be treated if the patient receives prompt treatment; otherwise, they are often fatal.

On Nov. 12, a couple from Inner Mongolia were diagnosed with pneumonic plague in Beijing. According to Beijing City’s health commission and local doctors, the two patients were sent by ambulance on Nov. 3 to Beijing for proper treatment, because their local hospital couldn’t diagnose the illness. Beijing is home to the country’s best hospitals.

The couple was treated at the Beijing Chaoyang Hospital first, then transferred to the Ditan Hospital, a hospital in the northeast suburbs of Beijing that is dedicated to treating infectious diseases.

The patients are herders from Sonid Zuoqi, a rural area also in the Xilin Gol region, about 125 miles north of Xianghuangqi, the home city of the latest patient.

The husband was infected first and transmitted the disease to his wife.

Authorities said that as of Nov. 15, one patient was in stable condition, while the other was still in critical condition. Authorities haven’t disclosed how the husband first contracted the plague.

Netizens React

While the Beijing city government said that there are currently no other plague cases, some netizens came forward with more information.

Since Nov. 12, netizens from the Beijing area began sharing photos that they took at local hospitals, showing signs posted in the facilities asking new patients to disclose if they had traveled to Qinghai, Gansu, and Inner Mongolia in the past 10 days, and whether they visited the Chaoyang Hospital on Nov. 3 to 5. This sparked speculation that hospitals were trying to contain the plague.

One netizen said he was a doctor at the Beijing Xuanwu Hospital. He said a family of three came to the hospital for treatment, all of whom were diagnosed with the plague; a child patient later died at the hospital.

Several others who said they were doctors said their employers had told them to keep silent about the plague cases.

Several other netizens who were sick and visited the Xuanwu and Beijing Children’s hospitals seeking treatment said they found several sections of the facilities were closed. The hospitals turned them away.

The Beijing health commission clarified on Nov. 15 that the patients mentioned online from Xuanwu Hospital and Children’s Hospital weren’t infected with the plague, but didn’t say what illness they had. Netizens said they don’t trust information from the authorities, who have hidden information about epidemics in the past, such as with the SARS outbreak.

The plague is rarely seen in developed countries in recent decades; in China, sporadic cases have been seen.

Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.