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Plague fears spark panic in India

Plague is transmitted to humans from rats through flea bites.
Plague is transmitted to humans from rats through flea bites.  

NEW DELHI, India -- Indian authorities have shut down several schools and placed health workers on alert in the northern state of Punjab after three people died from suspected pneumonic plague.

Test results on seven more infected patients should be available on Sunday which will specify the disease, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Health officials said the disease was contagious and had symptoms similar to pneumonia and plague.

Media reports said the disease caused victims to suffer fever, coughs, exhaustion and chest pain -- the same symptoms as pneumonia and pneumonic plague.

It broke out earlier this week in a village in Rohru district in the neighboring state of Himachal Prade.

Panicked Rohru residents have being buying preventative antibiotics and have been warned to stay in their homes over the next week.

Contagious disease experts have reached the district to evaluate the situation.

"Eight people were hospitalized on Tuesday. One of them died on Wednesday and the rest were improving and their condition was not serious," Manju Wadwalkar, spokeswoman for the Postgraduate Institute Hospital in Chandigarh told the Associated Press.

"We are still observing the culture. Once it is fully grown, we will identify the bacteria and then we will come to know whether it is plague," he said.

The disease was first noticed when a 35-year-old man died following a hunting expedition last month.

A relative who visited the man developed symptoms and died later.

Plague has appeared in India in isolated areas in the past 100 years, transmitted to humans from rats through flea bites.




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