Plague outbreak in Qinghai kills 2, leaves thousands quarantined

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 August, 2009, 12:00am


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An outbreak of pneumonic plague in a Tibetan area in the northwest Qinghai province has killed two people, the local government said late yesterday as it sealed off the affected town and put thousands of people under quarantine.

Xinhua reported that the latest victim, identified as Danzin, was a neighbour of the first victim - a 32-year-old herdsman who died on Thursday and has not been identified. Both were Tibetan and residents of Ziketan, a town in Xinghai county, 260 kilometres southwest of the provincial capital, Xining .

Danzin, 37, was admitted to hospital on July 31 after developing a fever and a cough. He died yesterday morning.

Ten other patients, most of them relatives of the first victim, were still in quarantine but they were not showing any symptoms of a fever or a cough.

Danzhengtai, who owns a shop in the county's Tibetan and Ethnic Medicine Hospital, quoted doctors as saying all the patients had been isolated within the complex for observation. He said they were all in stable condition.

'They told me that the dead man was a Tibetan who had contracted the disease after being bitten by a flea from his dog, which carried the bacteria after eating an infected vole-like animal, which is commonly found in grassland in Qinghai,' he said.

The provincial health bureau said in a statement that life continued as usual in the town. But Danzhengtai said that up to 60 per cent of the shops in town had closed. The few residents who have dared go out have been wearing masks ever since the first person died.

The shops that remained open have shut their front door, leaving only a window open to handle transactions, apparently in a bid to minimise human contact, he said.

Antibiotics said to be effective against the bacteria have sold out in the town, he said.

Dougai, a middle-aged Tibetan teacher, said no one had been allowed to leave the town without permission from the county Public Security Bureau.

'More than 20 checkpoints have been set up on all the routes connecting the town and the outside world, making it impossible for either a vehicle or a person to get out of the town since Friday,' he said.

More than 10,000 residents, more than three-quarters of whom are Tibetan, were affected by the measures.