BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Inner Mongolia reported a fresh, confirmed case of bubonic plague on Sunday, despite an earlier declaration by the country's health officials that the risk of an outbreak was minimal.
The health commission of the autonomous region said a 55-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease after he ate wild rabbit meat on 5 November.
Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague globally and can advance and spread to the lungs, which is a more severe type called pneumonic plague, according to the World Health Organization.
The Inner Mongolia case follows two that were confirmed earlier this month in Beijing. In both cases, the two patients from Inner Mongolia were quarantined at a facility in the capital after being diagnosed with pneumonic plague, health authorities said at the time.
The Inner Mongolia health commission said it found no evidence so far to link the most recent case to the earlier two cases in Beijing.
The patient in Inner Mongolia is now isolated and treated at a hospital in Ulanqab, the health commission said.
A total of 28 people who had close contact with the patient are now isolated and under observation, and the commission said there are no abnormal symptoms found in them.
Outbreaks in China have been rare, but large parts of the northwestern city of Yumen were sealed off in 2014 after a 38-year-old resident died of bubonic plague, known as "Black Death" in the Middle Ages and caused by the same bacterium as the pneumonic variant.
Rodent populations have risen in Inner Mongolia after persistent droughts, worsened by climate change. An area the size of the Netherlands was hit by a "rat plague" last summer, causing damages of 600 million yuan (US$86 million), Xinhua said.
Reporting By Zhang Min and Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Sam Holmes.