Boy, 15, dies from bubonic plague in Mongolia 'after eating marmot meat'

14 July 2020, 00:06 | Updated: 14 July 2020, 00:44

The teenager contracted bubonic plague after eating marmot meat, reports say
The teenager contracted bubonic plague after eating marmot meat, reports say. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A 15-year-old boy has died from bubonic plague in Mongolia after eating marmot meat as neighbouring countries are put on alert, according to reports.

The teenager's death, in the western Mongolian province of Govi-Altai, has sparked fears of a wider spread of the fatal Black Death disease.

Dozens of people he came into contact with have been placed in isolation, according to the country's National Centre for Zoonotic Diseases (NCZD), which was expected to receive samples taken from him on Monday.

It comes after two cases, brothers aged 27 and 17, were recently confirmed in the neighbouring province of Khovd.

Russia and China, both of which border Mongolia, have been warned that they are susceptible to the spread of bubonic plague.

The unnamed teenager had a high temperature after reportedly eating marmot meat - a type of squirrel - with two friends.

He died three days later and everyone he was known to have contacted has been spoken to in order to limit the spread of the disease which caused devastation in the 14th century, killing up to 200 million people.

Read more: Coronavirus second wave could see 120,000 deaths this winter, say scientists

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A bubonic plague alarm was raised in Bayannur earlier in July
A bubonic plague alarm was raised in Bayannur earlier in July. Picture: PA

Lockdowns have been introduced in five soums or districts in a bid to combat its transmission.

Bubonic plague is a bacterial disease spread by fleas that live on wild rodents such as marmots and can kill an adult in 24 hours if not treated swiftly.

Hundreds of people have been vaccinated after coming into direct or indirect contact with the brothers in Khovd.

The Mongolian health ministry admitted that the mountainous Altai regions of China and Russia, as well as Mongolia, are at risk of the plague due to infected marmots, based on a new study.

A television broadcast acknowledged these were “highly active areas of marmot epidemics.”

Senior official Dorj Narangerel said it was “very important not to hunt marmots” or eat the meat.

“The marmot plague is very toxic," he added.

“We urge you to pay special attention to the fact that the pulmonary form of the disease is just as rapid as the coronavirus infection - but it is a disease that can kill people very quickly.”

Earlier this month, authorities in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region raised the alarm after a case of bubonic plague was discovered.

However, it is believed the case in China has not led to a wider spread of the disease.

In April 2019, a couple died of bubonic plague in the western Mongolian province of Bayan-Ulgii after eating raw marmot meat.

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