A couple in Mongolia have died of the bubonic plague after eating the raw kidney of a marmot, a type of rodent.
The couple died on May 1 in Mongolia's western Bayan Olgii province, which borders China and Russia. The incident triggered a quarantine that left some foreign tourists stranded in the remote region.
Folk Remedy For Good Health
According to Ariuntuya Ochirpurev, of the World Health Organization in Ulaanbaatar, eating raw marmot meat and kidney is a folk remedy believed to help boost health.
Authorities, however, have been warning people against eating raw marmot meat because it carries Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the plague.
Mormot is commonly associated with plague cases in Mongolia and hunting the large rodent is in fact illegal. Some, however, ignore these warnings over the belief that consuming the innards of the animal is good for their health.
The plague killed millions of people during the Middle Ages. Humans commonly contract the plague when they are bitten by a flea carrying the plague bacterium, or when they handle animals infected with plague.
Antibiotics are now available to effectively treat the illness but without prompt treatment, the disease can still cause serious illness or even death. Preventive measures may also be needed for those who were exposed to the disease.
"People in close contact with very sick pneumonic plague patients may be evaluated and possibly placed under observation," the CDC said. "Preventive antibiotic therapy may also be given, depending on the type and timing of personal contact."
Symptoms of the disease include nausea, weakness, high fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin, or armpit. It may be hard to identify in its early stages though since the symptoms develop after three days to seven days and are flu-like.
Ochirpurev said that 118 people had come into contact with the couple, but they were already isolated and treated with antibiotics for prophylaxis. Among these individuals were seven tourists from Switzerland, Sweden, Kazakhstan, and South Korea.
"After the quarantine [was announced], not many people - even locals - were in the streets for fear of catching the disease," said American Peace Corps volunteer Sebastian Pique.
The quarantine is expected to be lifted next week.