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Plague claims two lives in Tibet

October 3, 2008

The Independent Online (South Africa)
October 1, 2008

Beijing - Two people in eastern Tibet have died of the deadliest and least common form of plague, Chinese state media said on Wednesday.

The health department of the Himalayan region was notified on Friday that two people had died of an unidentified illness in a village in the Linzhi area, more than 200km south-east of the capital Lhasa, the Beijing Times reported.

Health authorities examined the victims and determined they were cases of pneumonic plague.

The report did not identify the two but health authorities in Hong Kong said they were a couple who developed symptoms of plague on September 14 and 23.

A spokesperson for the Centre for Health Protection of Hong Kong's health department said the man, 35, passed away on September 20 and his 38-year-old wife died five days later.

Pneumonic plague, which is transmitted to humans from infected animals - mainly rodents - is highly contagious, the centre said.

It can spread between humans by breathing in respiratory droplets from an infected person and the incubation period of the disease is between one and four days.

It can be cured by rapid antibiotic treatment within around 24 hours of infection.

Pubu Zhuoma, head of the Tibet health department, said cases of human plague had emerged in Tibet in the past.

"Tibet's disease prevention workers have long carried out plague prevention and control work in disease areas. They have had good results in controlling epidemics among animals and there have been no epidemics among humans," he said, according to the Beijing Times.

Authorities immediately put in preventative and control measures in the village, no new cases of the disease had emerged in the area, and the disease had been contained, the report said. - AFP
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