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First Death from Pneumonic Plague Recorded in Gansu Province, China – Please Stay Alert When Traveling to Gansu

  • Data Source:Ministry of Health and Welfare
  • Created:2014-07-19
  • Last Updated:2017-01-11

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed, along with the health authority of mainland China, the first death this year (2014) caused by pneumonic plague in Gansu Province, China. The deceased was a 38-year-old male residing in Yumen City who was engaged in pastoral and agricultural work. He had been in contact with a kind of local rodent – called marmot (see attachment) – before the onset of the disease. Symptoms, such as fever and coughing, started on July 13. He consulted a doctor and received treatment in quarantine on July 14, but died on July 16 due to exacerbation of the disease. The case was confirmed as pneumonic plague after lab examinations. The Province has implemented preventive medicine measures and quarantined 151 persons who were in close contact with the deceased; none of them has shown suspected symptoms at this point. 
Gansu is a famous cultural tourist destination in China, with attractions like Dunhuang’s ancient city and the Silk Road. Since summer is a busy time for traveling, citizens are reminded to wear a mask, and pay attention to the hygienic conditions of hotels and tourist areas when traveling to Gansu. Also, travelers are advised to take preventive measures against flea bites and avoid contact with animals’ remains. 

According to statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the P.R.C., 42 cases of plague have been recorded since 2005 in mainland China. Relatively more plague cases were recorded in 2005 (15 cases) and 2009 (12 cases), and the numbers show a declining trend in recent years. Only one case was recorded between 2011 and 2012, and no cases were recorded in 2013. The plague is mainly found in Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, etc., where marmots, source of the disease, reside. 

‧ The CDC has reported no cases of the plague in Taiwan since 1948 and no cases have been reported in Kinmen since 1953. The plague is a zoonotic disease usually found in little rodents and their fleas. People may be infected through flea bites, contact with infected animals’ pus, or inhaling droplets from a patient. This is a very serious disease. Typical symptoms of pneumonic plague include sudden fever, shivering, headache, body aches, dizziness, blurred vision, coughing, chest pain, hemoptysis, dyspnea, respiratory failure, etc. It may also lead to pneumonia, mediastinitis, or cause pleural effusions. The fatality rate may be as high as 30-60% if no treatment is given. 

The CDC would like to remind citizens to inform quarantine officers upon arrival if they feel sick when returning to Taiwan in order to facilitate appropriate medical evaluations and referrals. Travelers who consult a doctor after returning home should take the initiative to inform their doctors of their travel history in order to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment. For any questions relating to the disease, you are most welcome to visit the CDC website (, or call the domestic toll-free reporting and care hotline 1922 (or 0800-001922).