The Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the plague. Via CDC

The city of Yumen, China entered crisis mode earlier this week after a man succumbed to the plague. Large parts of the city were sealed off by police, keeping some 30,000 residence confined to the local area. In its entirety, the city boasts some 100,000 people,. 151 people who were believed to have had contact with the victim were placed under strict quarantine; however, at present time, no other individuals have reported symptoms. The lock-down comes after a 38-year-old man died in a hospital last week (July 16), and it was revealed that he died from the  plague.

Tests proved that the man was killed by the bacteria that causes the bubonic plague; however, the individual did not die of the bubonic plague. The bacteria, which is known as Yersinia pestis, causes three kinds of plagues: The bubonic plague, which is an infection of the lymphatic system; the pneumonic plague, which is an infection of the respiratory system; and the septicaemic plague, which is an infection in the blood stream. In this case, the man died of a severe bacterial infection of the lungs—the pueonimic plague.

A majority of people are probably a bit more familiar with the bubonic plague, as it is widely believed that the bubonic plague is responsible for the 14th century's Black Death, which killed between 75 million and 200 million people across the globe. However, the pneumonic type  is actually the more dangerous variety. This is because the pneumonic plague can be passed from person to person through inhalation. Conversely, the bubonic plague is transmitted to humans from fleas or infected animals via blood.

On the same day of the patient's death the authorities established a quarantine zone, which impacts some 30,000 residence in Yumen city (located in China's northwestern Gansu province). Reports assert that the victim had been in contact with a dead marmot, which he had chopped up to feed to his dog. It is not known whether the dog became infected and could be spreading the disease.

The United State's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that, when a plague infection is left untreated, all forms will rapidly progress to death; however, there is no cause for serious concern. Antibiotics exist that can effectively combat the plague, effectively stopping Yersinia pestis in its tracks.  That said, it is important to seek immediate medical care, as the antibiotics should be given to a patient within 24 hours of the first symptoms. Unfortunately, most people do not immediately go to the doctor, as few would actually expect to be harboring something so deadly. Moreover, most individual who contract the plague live in rural and impoverished parts of the world, severely limiting medical access. And even when individuals do seek immediate medical attention, doctor's must be able to make a quick prognosis.

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