06 July 2020

Bubonic plague case confirmed in China

A new case of Bubonic plague was confirmed in China this week (6 July 2020) and, given everything that's happening across the globe with Covid-19, people are understandably worried. 

However, modern medicine is quite the marvel and it's important to remember that cases of the Bubonic plague are now both incredibly rare and easily treated with antibiotics. 

According to state reports, the current confirmed patient is in quarantine and in a stable condition, with a second suspected case under investigation.


Plague, pests and pandemics

The Bubonic plague, cause of some of the world's most deadly pandemics, is one of three types of plague caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis.

Throughout history this disease has killed millions of people; the Plague of Justinian (541–549 AD) saw between 25-100 million deaths, the Black Death resulted in up to 200 million deaths in the 14th century and the third pandemic in the mid-19th century, which killed 12 million in China and India.

However, scientists are now much more familiar with the way the disease is transmitted and can be treated.

In recent years cases of Bubonic plague have been confirmed as far apart as Madagascar, East Africa and New Mexico, USA

It's what is known as a "zoonotic" disease, which means it can pass between humans and animals, much like the Coronavirus currently causing a worldwide pandemic.

Transmission of this zoonotic bacterium is usually spread to humans through flea bites, and the fleas' preferred mode of transport: rats

This association with plague is one of the reasons rats are still so widely despised.

But in 21st century terms, there are more common diseases transmitted by rats that are a concern and why we control them.

Recent studies have refuted the role of Rattus rattus in spreading the dreaded plagues, such as the Black Death that swept through Europe in the 14th and 17th Centuries. However many scholars still point the finger firmly at these rodents!

World Health Organisation advice on reducing the chance of contracting Bubonic plague remains to avoid contact with live or dead rodents. 

But in 21st century terms, there are more common diseases transmitted by rats that are a concern and why we control them.

Rats communicate and mark their territory by urinating everywhere they go, representing a significant public health risk.

They can carry many nasty diseases, which can spread to humans, normally through rats’ urine or body coming into contact with food preparation areas.

Some of these are:

  • Leptospirosis (often referred to as Weil's disease)
  • Salmonella
  • Listeria
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Hantavirus.

For any rat infestation, we would always recommend contacting a professional pest management company, a member of BPCA.

They are trained in rat control and will have access to a range of professional use rodenticides and tools, which are not available to the public.


For more information on rats and why we control them, visit

Source: Online

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