The Black Death is back. In China. Right now. 

The bubonic plague, the deadly virus nicknamed the Black Death after it took out half of Europe during the Middle Ages, is back. In China. Right now. 

Parts of the northern Chinese city of Yumen were quarantined after state media confirmed that a man died from the bacterial infection on July 16, the Associated Press reported. Local authorities have quarantined 151 people and have established 10 checkpoints to block traffic in the city, with a population of 180,000.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said that investigators believe the man contracted the disease through contact with a marmot, a species of squirrel. 

The bacterial infection, which is contracted through rodents that have been exposed to flea bites, targets the lymphatic system, resulting in inflammation that leads to large blisters across the body, mostly around the lymph nodes.

Originally recorded in China in the 14th century, the bubonic plague spread to Europe through silk road trading routes, killing an estimated 25 million people. 

Most recent cases of the plague have occurred in the developing world with sporadic incidents in the United States. It is treatable with antibiotics.

While modern medicine has blunted its effects, here's a 19th century representation from Arnold Böcklin of just how scary the bubonic plague was in the Middle Ages. 

(Wikimedia Commons)

This post originally appeared on The Wire, an Atlantic partner site.

MORE FROM THE WIRE:

How Ben Gurion Airport Changes the Entire Gaza War

Sierra Leone's Leading Ebola Doctor Infected With Deadly Virus

Indian Billionaire Might Sell the Plaza Hotel To Pay His Bail

About the Author

David Ludwig

David Ludwig is a former editorial fellow with The Atlantic​.

Most Popular

  1. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.

  2. Postcards showing the Woodner when it used to be a luxury apartment-hotel in the '50s and '60s, from the collection of John DeFerrari
    Equity

    The Neighborhood Inside a Building

    D.C.’s massive Woodner apartment building has lived many lives—from fancy hotel to one of the last bastions of affordable housing in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now, it’s on the brink of another change.

  3. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.
    Equity

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.

  4. Equity

    The Poverty Just Over the Hills From Silicon Valley

    The South Coast, a 30-mile drive from Palo Alto, is facing an affordable-housing shortage that is jeopardizing its agricultural heritage.

  5. Life

    Why a City Block Can Be One of the Loneliest Places on Earth

    Feelings of isolation are common in cities. Let’s take a look at how the built environment plays into that.