A Mongolian man has died from bubonic plague, the country’s Health Ministry has announced, rekindling fears that the nation could experience a large-scale resurgence of the disease.
The 42-year-old man, from Khovd province in western Mongolia, succumbed to the illness on Tuesday night. The Health Ministry said that the victim had purchased two dead marmots, ground squirrels which are known to carry fleas that spread the disease, shortly before his death.
Hunting marmots is illegal in Mongolia, but many view the animal as a delicacy and dismiss the associated health risks. So far this year, 12 laboratory-confirmed cases of bubonic plague have been registered in the country. Last month, a 15-year-old boy died of the disease.
In July, Mongolia quarantined an entire region after identifying two people with symptoms of bubonic plague. The country’s National Center for Zoonotic Diseases has reported that 17 of Mongolia’s 21 provinces are at risk of an outbreak.
However, the threat to neighboring countries such as Russia is almost non-existent. The disease is not transmitted from person to person, nor is it contagious. It spreads from one animal to another through fleas. Vladimir Nikiforov, the chief infectious diseases specialist at Russia’s Federal Biomedical Agency, recently described the plague as “absolutely no threat.”
If left untreated, the plague is highly deadly. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headaches, and vomiting.
In the 14th century, the plague and its variants, then known as the Black Death, killed 200 million people worldwide. Nowadays it is far less prevalent, with typically only 650 cases recorded each year globally.
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