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What is the Black Death and what do we know about its return?

As the world turns its attention to the Coronavirus, the old bubonic plague is once again making a presence in some countries .

Man doing a test in a laboratory

This is what we know so far about the return of the Black Death. / Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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Despite the fact that the Black Death has not been as deadly for centuries as it was in the 14th century and for what was considered the most devastating plague in the history of mankind, its presence in different parts of the world once again raises alerts.

Mongolia, a country whose lack of global openness did not experience the Coronavirus crisis like the others, began to have cases of the Black Death in July. As an alert, the authorities decided to go into quarantine. Days later, in Inner Mongolia (which is a region of China and borders Mongolia) a similar case was detected and that triggered the alerts in the region.

Now, a new case has been filed in California, United States. This would be the first to be detected in 5 years in that area of the country. For now, the cases that have been registered in recent weeks in the world have been detected at an early stage, which has facilitated containment and has not spread.

What is the black plague?

This disease is a symbol of deadly epidemics given its prevalence in Eurasia during the Middle Ages. This could be controlled only years later thanks to antibiotics, but at the time it caused the death of around 200 million people , according to France 24. Today, although outbreaks continue to exist, they were never as deadly as the 14th century.

The Black Death, or bubonic plague, is caused by a bacteria called Yersinia Pestis, which lives in small animals and their parasites, such as fleas. Normally, the contagion of this disease occurs by the bite of the parasites that contain the bacteria, but in some cases it occurs by direct contact and even the ingestion of the animals where they live.

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The plague has been present in recent years in countries around the world such as the United States, Peru, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China and Mongolia. The latter is one of the countries where plague cases are normally found due to the ingestion of animals such as marmots. In the wave that began in July, it was precisely this that led to the appearance of new cases in the region.

Despite its past, the WHO has classified this as a low-risk outbreak because it is rarely transmitted to humans, although it is present in a large number of animals . However, the presence of the plague has never completely gone away. According to the organization, it has a fatal potential and indicates that "between 2010 and 2015, 3,248 cases were reported in the world, 584 of them fatal."

At the moment, China has a level 3 alarm against the outbreak, the second lowest on the scale in the country and will remain until the end of the year to prevent its spread. Meanwhile, California authorities have called for a check on their pets when they are outdoors as the high summer temperatures on the coast can facilitate the spread of fleas with the bacteria.

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