A 15-year-old boy died of bubonic plague in Gobi-Altai province, Mongolia, after eating marmot meat, the country’s Ministry of Health confirmed this Tuesday, 14. At least 15 people who had contact with him were isolated and are receiving treatment with antibiotics. Authorities also reported that five districts in the province had been quarantined for six days.
The young man’s death comes a week after China issued an alert on suspected cases in Mongolia, which it borders, and expanded health security measures.
There is no vaccine for the disease of bacterial origin, which is transmitted mainly by flea bites and also by eating meat from infected animals. In Inner Mongolia, the main host is the marmot that lives in rural areas.
The disease is endemic in countries with poor basic sanitation. The African island of Madagascar was the site that recorded the most recent bubonic plague epidemic in 2017, when more than 2,000 people contracted the disease and 209 died.
Although outbreaks are rare, at least one person dies of bubonic plague every year in Mongolia. The cases are always related to hunting and consumption of wild animals.
Last year, a blockade was imposed in the Mongolian province of Bayan-Olgii, after reports that a couple had died of bubonic plague after eating raw marmot meat.
Bubonic plague: symptoms and past
The disease is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and became known as the Black Death in the Middle Ages.
In the second half of the 14th century, bubonic plague became a pandemic, spreading across Europe, Asia and Africa and killing 50 million people.
The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, including chills, severe headache, high fever, general pain, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion and inflammation of the lymph nodes. They start to appear between three and seven days after the infection. When left untreated, the disease progresses quickly, and can kill the person in 24 hours.