A dog in China's Qinghai province appears to be the source of the highly virulent pneumonic plague that has struck the town of Ziketan and killed three people there. The town is under strict quarantine, with 10,000 people in isolation.
The dog is suspected to have eaten a plague-infested marmot and died shortly afterward. The dog's owner, a herdsman, became infected after being bitten by the remaining fleas that had been living on the dog's carcass. He died three days after receiving the bites.
Nine other people were reported to have been infected with the bacteria.
"Initial tests had shown that the herdsman's dead dog was the likely origin of the outbreak, Xinhua reported late Wednesday, quoting professor Wang Hu, director of the Qinghai disease control bureau," AFP reported
"The first victim buried the dead dog without any protection. After he became infected, his relatives and neighbours were in close contact with him without taking any protective measures, leading to their infection," Wang said.
According to the World Health Organization, the plague bacteria is distributed widely among rodent populations throughout Asia.
Chinese authorities were confident that the highly-contagious infection has been successfully limited to Ziketan. The area is mountainous and very remote, and these conditions may help contain any further outbreak.