Blast From the Past: Plague Strikes China

While Alcabes said that investigating the cases makes sense, "It seems to me that locking down an entire town is a piece of showmanship. This is not how we would approach it. In this case, I think they are doing more than they have to."

A Fear For The US?

While pneumonic plague can be deadly, neither Markel nor Alcabes thought it should be a concern to people in the United States.

"In fact, we have rats in major cities in the United States, sometimes there are lots of them, but we don't worry about plague," said Alcabes. "There's absolutely no reason to interpret this small event in China to interpret that anything is coming to us or that we should be more worried than usual."

He said the current response in China is a good example of an overly aggressive response where fear outweighs reason.

"The response is really to a fear of what might happen," said Alcabes.

Modern treatments, said Markel, could take care of cases of plague.

He noted that some cases of bubonic plague occur in the United States each year, particularly in people in the Southwest, but when treated the patients can recover.

"It's always a concern, we watch that, but modern medicine is well equipped to handle this," Markel said. "We have a lot more knowledge handling that than many of the newly emerging infectious diseases we're currently dealing with."

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