WHO: bubonic plague cases in China do not pose "high risk"

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that it is closely monitoring cases of bubonic plague that recently occurred in Mongolia, stressing that the situation does not pose a great threat and is "well managed."

Several cases of bubonic plague have been reported in recent days in China.

Authorities in the city of Bayannur, in Inner Mongolia, northern China, have announced an arsenal of measures after the discovery this weekend of a case of bubonic plague. The man, a pastor, is in stable condition at a hospital in Bayannur, the city health commission said in a statement Sunday.

"At the moment we do not consider this to be a high risk, but we are closely monitoring" the situation, in association with the Chinese and Mongolian authorities, a WHO spokeswoman, Margaret Harris, said at a press conference in Geneva.

Not hunt

The commission banned the hunting and consumption of animals that could transmit the plague, especially groundhogs, until the end of the year, and urged residents to report any dead or diseased rodents.

Another suspicious case involving a 15-year-old boy was reported in neighboring Mongolia on Monday, according to the China News Agency. And two other cases in the Mongolian province of Khovd were confirmed last week involving brothers who had eaten groundhog meat, the agency said.

About 150 people who came into contact with the two men were quarantined.

In a note sent to the media on Tuesday, the WHO said it was informed by China "on July 6 of a case of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia."

Disease present "for centuries"

The WHO emphasizes that plague is "rare" and that it is generally found in certain geographic areas of the world where it is still endemic. "The bubonic plague has been and is with us for centuries," said Margaret Harris.

In China, sporadic cases of plague have been reported in the past decade, according to the WHO.

Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease and is transmitted from animals to humans through infected flea bites or by direct contact with the carcasses of small infected animals. It is not easily transmitted between people.

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