FALSE: Photos of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia, China

Claim:

Social media posts about the recent cases of bubonic plague in Inner Mongolia, China included photos of people in hazmat suits and a man with skin infection.

The photos were captioned: “Two suspected cases of Bubonic plague were reported by a hospital in Inner Mongolia, China. The cases, a 27-year-old man and his 17-year-old brother have been confirmed by test results, and are being treated in hospitals in the province. The brothers had reportedly eaten ‘marmot meat’ following which they were infected.”

Facebook’s monitoring tool, Claim Check, flagged two posts with this claim. One was shared on July 21 and the other on July 9.

Rating: FALSE
The facts:

None of the pictures included in the posts were of the recent bubonic plague cases in Inner Mongolia, China. Experts also said that cases of bubonic plague in July 2020 should not be a cause for panic.

The photo of people in white hazmats suits was taken in South Korea and was used by news outfits, such as CNN and Singapore’s Business Times, as early as March 2020. A reverse image search showed that the people in the suits were South Korean soldiers spraying disinfectant in Seoul to curb the spread of COVID-19. (READ: South Korea raises virus alert to 'grave' as infections surge)

Meanwhile, the man with skin infection was a wax sculpture made by British artist Eleanor Crook in 2008. The artwork, titled Bubonic Plague, can be viewed here.

The two other pictures included in the posts were stock photos: one is of a bubonic plague smear, and another is an instructional graphic that shows the symptoms of the disease.

The bubonic plague killed millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages but it is now treatable by modern medicine and standard preventive measures, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and World Health Organization.

So far, one teenager in Mongolia died of the plague in July. "While the boy’s death is tragic, there’s no reason to think this is another epidemic in the works," science journalist Chris Baraniuk wrote in the US magazine The Scientist on July 17. He added that countries have a better grasp of the plague unlike COVID-19. – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com

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