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No Need for Plague Panic? China’s Trending Plague Outbreak

After the Year of the Pig brought swine flue, some fear the Year of the Rat will bring the ‘rat plague.’

Manya Koetse

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For the past nine days, during which three cases of the plague have been reported in China, the deadly bubonic plague has become a hot topic on Chinese social media.

The topic first made headlines on November 12, when Chinese state media announced that two people, a husband and wife from Inner Mongolia, were transported to Beijing’s Chaoyang Hospital for treatment after being diagnosed with the pneumonic plague.

The couple reportedly got sick after eating raw marmot kidney.

A 55-year old hunter from the same region, the Inner Mongolian Xilingol League, was later also diagnosed with bubonic plague after eating wild rabbit meat.

The bubonic plague, also called the ‘Black Death,’ is an infectious disease that is known to have caused one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, killing millions of people in 14th century Europe.

News of the three cases of bubonic plague reminded many of the 2003 SARS panic; an outbreak of SARS in southern China caused over 8000 cases that year.

The World Health Organisation criticized China at the time for covering up the scale of the problem, with officials conceding in the Spring of 2003 that China’s SARs problem was “nearly 10 times worse than had been admitted.”

Current online reports on the bubonic plague in China stress that there is no reason for panic, with a hospital spokesperson confirming that the situation is “under control.”

42 people who are known to have come into contact with the Chinese patients have all been quarantined and were not found to have any symptoms of catching the disease.

Chinese (state) media channels are spreading social media posts this week that mainly emphasize that the plague “can be prevented, controlled, and managed,” and that it can be effectively treated.

“Don’t panic over plague outbreak,” Sina News headlines, with People’s Daily posting on Weibo that, according to the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “there is no need to worry.”

The bubonic plague primarily affects rodents and other animals, with animals – and incidentally humans – usually contracting the infection through insects such as (rat) fleas. This form of plague is highly contagious – can spread through coughing – and could be fatal within days if left untreated (Benedict 1996, 4).

Mammals such as rabbits or marmots, as eaten by the recent Chinese patients, but also rats, squirrels, gerbils, mice, etc., can all harbor the disease.

Although the disease is increasingly rare, and for many is something from the history books, there were still 3248 cases worldwide between 2010 and 2015, leading to 584 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Although Chinese media stress that there is no need to panic over the recent outbreak of the bubonic plague, many netizens still fear an epidemic, making comments such as: “The Year of the Pig brought the [African] swine fever, now the plague is starting just before the Year of the Rat!” (The word for ‘plague’ in Chinese is 鼠疫 shǔyì, literally meaning ‘rat plague’ or ‘mouse plague’).

Others are asking questions such as: “Do we risk the plague more if we have mice in the house?” and “How can we prevent getting it?”

Meanwhile, according to Jiemian News reports, the area in Inner Mongolia where the patients originally contracted the illness is currently under strict control by the Ministries of Health and Agriculture; some roads are closed off, and there’s temperature screening for those taking public transport.

The area has seen four cases of plague over the past decades, the most recent one before this month being in 2004.

Last news on the current three patients was from last Saturday, when it was reported that at least one of the patients is now in stable condition.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

References

Benedict, Carol Ann. 1996. Bubonic Plague in Nineteenth Plague in Nineteenth Century China. Stanford University Press.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Herry

    November 21, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    The word ” stupid ” was invented here.

  2. Avatar

    randy

    March 21, 2020 at 6:39 am

    yup, now look at what has happened…sucks that the general population has no voice in China. They are always trying to hide something.If you do speak up, look out, you will just disappear. It’s sad that China can’t be up front with the world and stop censoring their own people.

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China Animals

‘Welcome Home, Molly’ – Chinese Zoo Elephant Returns to Kunming after Online Protest

One small step for animal protection in China, one giant leap for Molly the elephant.

Manya Koetse

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Following online protest and the efforts of animal activists, Molly has returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born and where mother elephant Mopo is.

The little elephant named Molly is a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media recently.

The popular Asian elephant, born in the Kunming Zoo in 2016, was separated from her mother at the age of two in April of 2018. Molly was then transferred from Kunming Zoo to Qinyang, Jiaozuo (Henan), in exchange for another elephant. Over the past few years, fans of Molly started voicing their concerns online as the elephant was trained to do tricks and performances and to carry around tourists on her back at the Qinyang Swan Lake Ecological Garden (沁阳天鹅湖生态园), the Qinyang Hesheng Forest Zoo (沁阳和生森林动物园), the Jiaozuo Forestry Zoo (焦作森林动物园), and the Zhoukou Safari Park (周口野生动物世界).

Since the summer of 2021, more people started speaking out for Molly’s welfare when they spotted the elephant chained up and seemingly unhappy, forced to do handstands or play harmonica, with Molly’s handlers using iron hooks to coerce her into performing.

Earlier this month, Molly became a big topic on Chinese social media again due to various big accounts on Xiaohongshu and Weibo posting about the ‘Save Molly’ campaign and calling for an elephant performance ban in China (read more).

Although zookeepers denied any animal abuse and previously stated that the elephant is kept in good living conditions and that animal performances are no longer taking place, Molly’s story saw an unexpected turn this week. Thanks to the efforts of online netizens, Molly fans, and animal welfare activists, Molly was removed from Qinyang.

A popular edited image of Molly that has been shared a lot online.

On May 15, the Henan Forestry Bureau – which regulates the holding of all exotic species, including those in city zoos – announced that Molly would return to Kunming in order to provide “better living circumstances” for the elephant. A day later, on Monday, Molly left Qinyang and returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born. In Kunming, Molly will first receive a thorough health check during the observation period.

Official announcement regarding Molly by the Henan Forestry Administration.

Many online commenters were happy to see Molly returning home. “Finally! This is great news,” many wrote, with others saying: “Please be good to her” and “Finally, after four years of hardship, Molly will be reunited with her mother.”

Besides regular Weibo accounts celebrating Molly’s return to Kunming, various Chinese state media accounts and official accounts (e.g. the Liaocheng Communist Youth League) also posted about Molly’s case and wished her a warm welcome and good wishes. One Weibo post on the matter by China News received over 76,000 likes on Monday.

Although many view the effective online ‘Save Molly’ campaign as an important milestone for animal welfare in China, some animal activists remind others that there are still other elephants in Chinese zoos who need help and better wildlife protection laws. Among them are the elephant Kamuli (卡目里) and two others who are still left in Qinyang.

For years, animal welfare activists in China and in other countries have been calling for Chinese animal protection laws. China does have wildlife protection laws, but they are often conflicting and do not apply to pets and there is no clear anti-animal abuse law.

“I’ll continue to follow this. What are the next arrangements? What is the plan for Molly and the other elephants? How will you guarantee a safe and proper living environment?”

Another Weibo user writes: “This is just a first step, there is much more to be done.”

To follow more updates regarding Molly, check out Twitter user ‘Diving Paddler’ here. We thank them for their contributions to this article.

To read more about zoos and wildlife parks causing online commotion in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse

References (other sources linked to within text)

Arcus Foundation (Ed.). 2021. State of the Apes: Killing, Capture, Trade and Ape Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

China Daily. 2012. “Animal Rights Groups Seek Performance Ban.” China Daily, April 16 http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-04/16/content_25152066.htm [Accessed May 1 2022].

Li, Peter J. 2021. Animal Welfare in China: Culture, Politics and Crisis. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

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China and Covid19

Huizhou Pet Dog Beaten to Death by Health Workers while Owners Are in Quarantine

First in Shangrao, now in Huizhou.

Manya Koetse

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Last November, Chinese social media users were outraged after anti-epidemic workers in Shangrao killed a pet dog while its owner was undergoing quarantine at a nearby hotel. This week, a similar incident has again sparked outrage on Weibo.

On March 2nd, a Samoyed dog was beaten to death by anti-epidemic workers in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. Home security footage of the incident was shared by the dog’s owner (有只雪球), who wrote about it on Weibo on March 4th. Her post was shared over 100,000 times on Saturday afternoon.

The 3-year-old dog named Snowball was left at home while its owners were quarantined elsewhere in Huizhou. The female owner’s boyfriend was confirmed to have Covid-19 and was sent to a designated hospital on March 2nd, while the woman also needed to quarantine due to being a close contact.

That very same day, two epidemic prevention staff members entered the house to disinfect it. The dog owner shared screenshots of a WeChat conversation with the health workers, in which she told them in which room the dog was staying and also told them he was harmless and did not bite. The conversation suggests that the owner was under the assumption that the dog would just be tested for Covid19.

But much to the horror of the owners, their home security camera system allowed them to see how workers used a long stick to hit the dog, and how they continued to beat the dog to death. A video of the incident was also posted on Twitter by @realsexycyborg (warning, viewer discretion is advised, distressing footage and sound).

On March 5th, the official Weibo account of the Huizhou Propaganda Department released a statement on the incident, confirming that the incident had indeed occurred and apologizing for it.

Although the statement said the anti-epidemic workers used a “cruel manner” to kill the dog, it also said that this large dog had been exposed to Covid19 for a prolonged period through its owner and that there allegedly was a high chance that the dog also had caught the Covid19 virus.

The statement further said that the health workers in question have been suspended from their duties and that authorities have contacted the dog’s owners and apologized to them.

Many people on Weibo expressed anger and disbelief that such an incident had occurred again: “This epidemic has been going on for several years, why does this keep happening? First Shangrao, now Huizuo. It’s heartbreaking.”

“Snowball was so scared. I couldn’t breathe when clicking on the video, and Paipai [pet dog] immediately scurried to me with his tail down when he heard the video, dogs can empathize with other dogs, Paipai could hear that Snowball was in danger.”

Other commenters also claimed that more dogs were recently killed by health workers. Guangdong province recently saw a spike in Covid-19 cases, with virtually all cases originating from neighboring Hong Kong.

Some Weibo users pleaded for Chinese laws to prohibit the mistreatment of animals. For many years, animal welfare activists have been calling for better legal protection of animals in China. China currently has no laws preventing animal abuse but over the past few years, the voices calling for the legal protection of animals in China have become louder – in 2020, state media outlet CCTV also called for animal protection laws.

Online anger was further fuelled when hashtag pages relating to this incident were taken offline on Weibo, with the topic being left out of the top trending topics and hot search lists. The Huizhou authorities closed the comment sections underneath their statement.

“What? You’re clamping down on this topic now? Do you think we’re idiots?”, one Weibo user wrote. Another person said “It’s fine if this gets deleted. For communism, your dog is my dog, you beat my death to death, just apologize and it’s ok.”

Another person wrote: “As a Huizhou resident and a pet lover, I really feel horrible about this. Epidemic prevention is important, but it should protect life, not harm life. The loss of moral preventive measures and the indifferent attitude in which this incident was handled afterward is really a disgrace to Huizhou!”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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