A Mongolian couple died from the bubonic plague after eating raw marmot meat, causing a six-day quarantine to be declared in a western province of Mongolia earlier this month.
Ariuntuya Ochirpurev from the World Health Organization in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia told the BBC that some in the area believe the raw meat of a marmot, a type of large rodent, has good health benefits.
According to Ochirpurev, the 118 people who had come into contact with the couple were all isolated and treated with antibiotics. As of Tuesday, the quarantine had been lifted.
“After the quarantine [was announced], not many people — even locals — were in the streets for fear of catching the disease,” Sebastian Pique, an American Peace Corps volunteer living in the region, told Agence France-Presse.
Ochirpurev told the BBC that the couple had eaten raw marmot meat and kidney. Marmots are a known carrier of Yersinia pestis, the plague bacteria.
According to the Washington Post, the man, 38, and his wife, 37, died of “multiple organ failure” caused by the plague. The Post reports that the couple left behind four children, from 9 months to 14 years old.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the plague spreads to humans through infected fleas and rodents like squirrels, chipmunks and prairie dogs.
Symptoms of the plague includes fever, chills and weakness. The most common sign of bubonic plague is the rapid growth of a “swollen and painful lymph gland,” according to the CDC.
The plague has been responsible for tens of millions of deaths throughout history. Though it is rare now, the CDC warns that human plague infections still occur in the western United States and parts of Africa and Asia.
According to the WHO, from 2010 to 2015 there were 3,248 cases of the plague reported worldwide, including 584 deaths.
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