China says plague outbreak risk minimal after 2 new cases in Beijing - media

SHANGHAI, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Chinese health officials say the risk of an outbreak of pneumonic plague is minimal after two new cases were confirmed in the capital Beijing this week, the official China Daily reported on Thursday.

Health authorities in the Beijing district of Chaoyang announced on Tuesday that two patients from Inner Mongolia had been diagnosed with the highly infectious and often fatal disease and had been put in quarantine.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said all the people at risk of being exposed to the plague have been traced and treated, and hospitals have also stepped up monitoring of anyone showing similar symptoms.

Pneumonic plague is a lung disease spread by rats, with fatality rates in humans close to 100% if left untreated, Beijing health authorities said in a notice. Outbreaks in China have been rare in recent years.

Rat populations have been on the increase in Inner Mongolia as a result of persistent droughts. An area the size of the Netherlands was hit by a "rat plague" last summer, causing 600 million yuan in damages, the official Xinhua news agency reported. (Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Sam Holmes)