What Nigerians must know about bubonic plague —Experts

Bubonic plague, caused by bacteria and transmitted through flea bites and infected animals, is one of the deadliest bacterial infections in human history. In this report by SADE OGUNTOLA, experts review possibilities of bubonic plaque re-curring in Nigeria and how best an individual can get protected from it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday that it was monitoring a case of bubonic plague in China after being notified by the authorities in Beijing.

A herdsman in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region was confirmed at the weekend to have the bubonic plague. Two other cases were confirmed in Khovd province in neighbouring Mongolia penultimate week involving brothers who had eaten marmot meat.

Members of the public have been urged to “report any findings of killed or dead marmots and other animals and report suspected plague cases, high fever patients with unknown reasons and patients dying from sudden deaths.”

The health commission in the Chinese city also warned residents in the area to prevent people-to-people infection by desisting from hunting and killing animals that could cause plague infections.

According to health experts, a person infected with bubonic plague will experience the following symptoms: swollen lymph nodes, which can be as large as chicken eggs, in the groin, armpit, or neck. Others include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. If left untreated, the disease has a 30 to 60 per cent fatality rate.

If the bacterium enters the bloodstream, it can cause a condition called septicaemia or sepsis, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Plague, caused by bacteria, Yersinia pestis, and transmitted through flea bites and infected animals, is one of the deadliest bacterial infections in human history. During the Black Death in the 14th century, it killed an estimated 50 million people across Africa, Asia and Europe.

There have been a handful of large outbreaks since. It killed about a fifth of London’s population during the Great Plague of 1665, while more than 12 million died in outbreaks during the 19th Century in China and India.

Historically, it has also been called the Black Death, in reference to the gangrenous blackening and death of body parts, such as the fingers and toes, which can happen with the illness.

“Although bubonic plague has been with us and is always with us, for centuries,” Dr Adetola Fayemiwo, a consultant medical microbiologist, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, said, “the plague is rare but typically found in selected geographical areas across the globe where it is still endemic.”

Madagascar saw more than 300 cases during an outbreak in 2017. However, a study in the medical journal, The Lancet, found less than 30 people died.

In May last year, two people in the country of Mongolia died from the plague, which they contracted after eating the raw meat of a marmot – the same type of rodent the second suspected case came in contact with.

Fayemiwo, an infectious-disease specialist, declared that bubonic plague is its most common form and is transmitted between animals and humans through the bite of infected fleas, direct contact with infected small animals and from human to human through inhalation of infected respiratory droplets.

Indeed, scientists have warned that rat-borne diseases are on the rise. Researchers equally warned that infectious diseases carried by rats might be a human health time bomb. Several studies have shown that rats are carriers and reservoirs of most deadly viral infections including Lassa fever, typhus, monkey pox, plague, typhoid fever, cowpox and hepatitis E.

Dr Fayemimo stated that although sporadic cases of plague have been reported in China over the last decade, this highly infectious and often fatal disease is only re-emerging.

However, he added: “a plague is something that is fearful. It can wipe a whole generation, and it is not something that should be held with levity.”

Dr Fayemiwo said that it was unfortunate that such a disease was again coming out of China.

“One can tend to ask what is really happening and why the problem again is coming from China. But we need to do at this point in time like during Ebola and recently coronavirus, is to maintain good hand hygiene to avoid these infections,” he said.

Executive Secretary, Nigerian Academy of Science and past chairman, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (Lagos), Dr Doyin Odubanjo, however, said due to globalisation, human transfer of the bacterial infection to Nigeria is highly possible.

Dr Odunbanjo said like COVID-19, if it is not curtailed at its source, it can easily become a global health challenge.

“With proper travel advisory, we would have been able to curtail COVID-19 in China. Maybe the world would have joined China to contain it in Wuhan if WHO had given an appropriate warning on time.

“I am sure even China knows that they cannot afford something else coming out of there to the world right now; in fact maybe ever again.” he added.

Professor Tanimola Akande, a public health expert at the University of Ilorin, said the re-emergence of bubonic plague, which is one of plague’s three forms, could be linked to man’s disturbance of the ecosystem.

He declared: “We are getting too close to animals; we are moving them from where they stay. Some people even consume them when inappropriately cooked. Today, people indulge in behaviours that are bringing back these diseases.”

Akande added that the human transfer of the bacterial infection to Nigeria is highly possible because of air travel.

“We must worry about it; it affected Lagos in the olden days. So we need to get prepared even before it comes. Safety measures, such as surveillance at the point of entry, must be put in place before it becomes a major public health problem,” he warned.

Akande said although bubonic plague is a bacterial infection, most of the antibiotics that are available today are unable to deal with many bacterial infections because of antibiotic abuse.

“In those days people use penicillin and ampicillin for the treatment of different infections. But, if you are using them now, you are wasting your time; it is just like drinking powder,” he added.

The don declared that for Nigeria to win emerging (such as Ebola and COVID-19) and re-emerging diseases (Lassa fever, whooping cough and bubonic plaque), it must focus more on health through increased research, funding and human resource for health.

Dr Danielle Buttke, an epidemiologist at the US National Park Service, said the existence of animal reservoir like Black-footed ferrets, Prairie dogs and the Canada lynx for bubonic plague makes the plague hard, if not impossible, to eradicate.

Nonetheless, Incident Manager, Oyo State COVID-19 Emergency Operation Centre, Dr Taiwo Ladipo declared that emerging or re-emerging diseases can have catastrophic consequences.

He expressed optimism that bubonic plaque may not get to Nigeria but assured that in case the infectious disease comes, the isolation centres dotted across the country will be able to support victims’ care.

According to him, “I hope we will not get there. It is abroad yes, just as Ebola is still in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But everything is about infection prevention. If people actually utilise the advisory that we have sent out, including making regular hand washing a norm, it will reduce the transmission of these infectious diseases in our environment.”

World Health Organisation spokeswoman Margaret Harris at a virtual briefing on Tuesday said WHO was working in partnership with the Chinese and Mongolian authorities on the disease.

“We are looking at the case numbers in China. It’s being well managed. At the moment, we are not considering it high-risk but we’re watching it, monitoring it carefully,” she said.



Journalists Barred As Panel Grills Magu In Aso Rock
The acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, is currently being grilled by a panel set up to investigate alleged infractions against him… Read Full Story

Hushpuppi Hires Michael Jackson’s Former Lawyer To Represent Him In Court
Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, popularly known as Hushpuppi, a suspected internet fraudster and Instagram celebrity, who was arrested recently has reportedly hired a former lawyer to Michael Jackson, Mark Geragos, to represent him in court… Read Full Story

COVID-19: Trump Govt Threatens Foreign Students With Expulsion
International students who are pursuing degrees in the United States will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses, Immigration and Customs Enforcement… Read Full Story

PHOTOS: After Four Months, Oyo Schools Reopen Monday
After about four months, students in primary six, JSS3 and SSS3 in Oyo State resume at their various schools on Monday. As a way to curtail the spread of COVID-19 Governor Seyi Makinde had on March 21, ordered the closure of all schools in the state… Read Full Story

Military Air Strikes Destroy Dwelling Place Of Boko Haram Leaders In Borno ― DHQ
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ), on Monday, said that in renewed efforts to end insurgents activities in the country, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole has destroyed the dwellings of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) leaders and neutralised some of their fighters in separate airstrikes conducted at Parisu and Bula Bello in… Read Full Story

Regional Banks To Operate From Additional Geo-Political Zone
THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced that Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) with regional authorization shall henceforth be required to operate from one additional geo-political zone in the… Read Full Story

CBN’s Adjustment Of Naira Rate’ll Cause Inflation — NECA
THE Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has said the Central Bank of Nigeria’s adjustment of naira exchange rate from N360/dollar to N380/dollar at the Secondary Market Intervention Sales (SMIS) will result in inflation… Read Full Story

FG To Close Third Mainland Bridge On July 24
The Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr Olukayode Popoola, on Monday said consultations were on for another phase of repairs to begin on the Third Mainland Bridge… Read Full Story

Youths Need Digital Skills For 21st Century Economy —Minister
The Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, has said that African youths need digital skills development for the 21st-century economy… Read Full Story

Wadume: Produce Indicted Soldiers For Trial, Falana Tells AGF
MILITARY’S special court, court-martial, is not constitutionally-empowered to try offences of terrorism with which indicted soldiers in the trial of kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu (alias Wadume) were charged, leading lawyer, Femi Falana, said on Sunday… Read Full Story

Reps Committee Approves N6.06trn Revenue Target For FIRS In 2020
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Finance on Monday approved the 2020 budget proposal for Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with the projected revenue accruing to the Federation… Read Full Story

‘Industrialisation Of Lekki Free Trade Zone Costing Us Our Livelihoods’
When Mrs Helen Folarin was posted to Itamarun (a fishing community in Lagos) to head the only public health centre there as a consultant, little did anyone envisage that the journey to getting the plight of residents of this beachside community known, had begun… Read Full Story

In Defence Of Senior Advocates
On July 4, 2019, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, LPPC, rolled out the names of thirty-eight legal practitioners deserving to be conferred with the prestigious Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. How some despise the Rank! Some don’t want it ever mentioned near them at al… Read Full Story

You might also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. AcceptRead More