(NaturalNews) A deadly disease that at one time killed off one-third of Europe has reemerged in China, where officials have quarantined an entire city following the death of a resident. The Chinese city of Yumen, population 30,000, was reportedly sealed off after a man who handled a dead marmot contracted bubonic plague and later died, potentially exposing hundreds of others to the disease in the process.
Though no other cases of bubonic plague have since emerged, most of Yumen remains closed off, with nobody being allowed to enter or leave the city. About 150 people who reportedly came into direct contact with the man have been placed under quarantine, according to reports, and officials are keeping a close watch for any new cases that might appear.
Reports indicate that the 38-year-old man developed swollen lymph nodes not long after touching the small, furry rodent, which is related to the squirrel. Though not typically transmissible from person to person, bubonic plague can spread to the lungs and turn into pneumonic plague, which is contagious. Because of this, officials are taking dramatic precautions to prevent uncontrolled spread.
"The city has enough rice, flour and oil to supply all its residents for up to one month," explained China Central Television (CCTV) officials to China Daily. "Local residents and those in quarantine are all in stable condition," it added, noting that no further cases of the disease have been reported.
Professor suspects threat is much worse than just one infected man
Though serious, bubonic plague, especially when observed in isolated instances, does not typically warrant the shutdown of an entire city. According to Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, such actions are extreme and may be indicative of something more serious than the media is reporting.
"We have cases of bubonic plague from time to time in the United States, and they don't require this kind of public health response," he stated to Fox News. "I feel there's something here that we don't know, because this seems a very expansive response to just one case."
What the actual threat could be, however, remains unknown. It is possible that officials are merely being extra cautious about the disease's spread, as China's history is blighted with several major outbreaks of the plague. Or perhaps the type of plague identified is more virulent than the kind most commonly observed, which afflicts between 1 and 17 humans in the U.S. annually.
Chinese man determined to have contagious pneumonic plague
According to The New York Times (NYT), the Chinese man who died from the plague did, indeed, have the pneumonic variety. This means that his condition would have been easily spread through sneezing, coughing and other bodily functions that release droplets into the air. But officials say no further sign of spread has been observed.
"Everything is pretty stable so far," stated an official from the Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Jiuquan, the Gansu city that has jurisdiction over Yumen. "No sign of infection on them."