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The Black Death: Chinese Authorities on High Alert as Bubonic Plague Case Confirmed

People with high fever and sudden deaths will come under greater scrutiny under public health measures.

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Chinese authorities in the country’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region have raised a level-three warning for epidemic control after a case of bubonic plague, the disease that caused the Black Death pandemic, was confirmed.

The alarm comes after a local herdsman was suspected to have the case over the weekend after being admitted to the people’s hospital in Urad Middle Banner in Bayannur City, reports state-run Chinese state news outlet CGTN.

The patient is now under quarantine and is in stable condition.

The level-three warning for plague control and prevention is the second-lowest in a four-level system and will remain in effect until the end of 2020, according to a municipal commission.

Under the public health measures, people have been urged to boost their personal protective measures to prevent the plague from spreading between people. Additionally, the hunting and eating of wild animals have been banned.

“At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly,” the local health authority said.

People with high fever and sudden deaths will come under greater scrutiny under public health measures.

Authorities are also calling on citizens of the region to report any sick or dead marmots or other animals that they may come across. Marmots are a type of large ground squirrel traditionally eaten in some parts of China and in the neighboring country Mongolia, and have historically been the cause of plague outbreaks in the region.

The marmot is believed to have been the cause of the 1911 pneumonic plague epidemic that claimed the lives of 63,000 people in northeast China, reports CNN. At the time, the marmot was hunted for its fur, which was in high demand among international traders. As a result of the trade in diseased fur, thousands across the country were infected.

During the Middle Ages, the bubonic plague or “Black Death” reached global pandemic proportions, ravaging the populations of Asia, Europe and Africa and resulting in upwards of 100 million deaths.

Historians estimate that it reduced the population of Europe by about two-thirds, with the population in England in 1400 falling to around half of what it had been a century earlier and around 1,000 villages being depopulated or totally disappearing.

The bubonic plague is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis. Unlike the coronavirus, the disease is a result of bacterial infection.

If patients are given antibiotics within the first 24 hours of infection, they are likely to survive the ordeal. However, in the absence of antibiotics the virus can lead to a painful, grueling and prolonged death.

Indeed, the advent of antibiotics has largely helped to prevent the virulent plague outbreaks of the past. However, modern medicine has still not proven capable of totally eliminating the plague – leading the World Health Organization to categorize it as a re-emerging disease. Roughly 1,000 to 2,000 people get the plague every year, although the true number is expected to be far larger when accounting for unreported cases.

About seven cases of the bubonic plague are reported on average every year in the United States, usually in rural zones of western states, reports New York Times

The bubonic plague becomes far more virulent and deadly after it mutates into the pneumonic plague, which is the only form of the disease capable of person-to-person transmission through respiratory droplets released through coughing and sneezing.

While the bubonic plague has a 30- to 60-percent death rate if untreated, pneumonic plague fatality rates are much higher and approach nearly a 100-percent rate.

Last November, the same region of Inner Mongolia was also the scene of a pneumonic plague outbreak.

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Health

3D-Printed ‘Suicide Pod’ Gets Legal Approval in Switzerland, Could Roll Out In 2022

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Switzerland is among a small group of countries, mainly in Europe, that allows for people to end their own lives under strict provisions through the assistance of a licensed physician.

However, one company in the Alpine nation is hoping to streamline legalized euthanasia by removing doctors from the process through a new invention that allows people to end their own lives quickly and painlessly. And now, the device has passed an important review by Swiss legal authorities.

Nonprofit company Exit International has produced a 3D-printed suicide chamber dubbed the “Sarco,” reports  Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. The 21st-century sarcophagus-like machine could roll out as soon as 2022.

Those faced with terminal disease and other excruciating physical conditions, as well as severe psychological pain, will be able to make a clean exit from this mortal coil by lying comfortably inside the small chamber. At the press of a button, the chamber will then fill with nitrogen gas, depriving them of oxygen and terminating their life in 30 seconds.

“There is no panic, no choking feeling,” said Philip Nitschke, the nonprofit’s founder who has been dubbed “Dr. Death” by media.

The chamber is also easy to transport, allowing people to end their lives wherever they choose – be it in a cabin in the forest, at the beach, or anywhere else they might choose.

The device is controversial, however, due to the fact that it removes medical professionals from the process of euthanasia. However, Exit International hopes that it can develop an AI-assisted online exam that can gauge the mental acuity of those who wish to use Sarco.

“We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Nitschke explained.

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide and live in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of helpful resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources. Resources in other countries can be found here.

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Health

Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People

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The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.

Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.

Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.

Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.

Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.

“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”

However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.

In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”

“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”

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Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say

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With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.

According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.

The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.

The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.

While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.

Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.

“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.

“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.

Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced

However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.

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