The New York Times is reporting on "fears of an outbreak" of plague—and, no, you haven't traveled back in time. On Tuesday, officials in China announced that two people had been diagnosed with pneumonic plague, which the CDC calls the most serious of three forms of the infectious disease and the only one that can be spread from person to person through coughing. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the patients from Inner Mongolia were diagnosed at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital and isolated as officials sought others who might have been exposed. A hospital doctor said the patients first sought treatment on Nov. 3, prompting questions about why it's taken so long for a public warning to be issued.
Dr. Li Jifeng described fever and respiratory issues in a middle-aged couple in a post on WeChat. But it was removed by Tuesday as Chinese censors were instructed to "block and control" plague coverage, per the Times. China's CDC said there was no reason for panic as the risks of transmission were "extremely low." Still, Chaoyang Hospital replaced all the chairs in its emergency room, which was quarantined by police on Monday, per USA Today and the Times. In time, bubonic or septicemic plague, usually contracted through a flea bite or the handling of infected meat, can develop into pneumonic plague, which is fatal if left untreated. (The latest cases follow the May deaths of a Mongolian couple who contracted bubonic plague after eating raw marmot meat.)