A 15-year-old boy has died from a suspected infection of bubonic plague in the Mongolian province of Govi-Alta, according to the country's National Center for Zoonotic Diseases (NCZD). The teenager's symptoms included high fever, which he got after eating marmot meat with two friends. He died within three days of eating the contaminated rodent meat.

Dozens of people who came into contact with the teenager have now been placed in isolation and a lockdown has been imposed in five districts to contain the spread of the deadly disease.

Bubonic Plague
Bubonic Plague bacteria under an electron microscope. Pixabay

The bacterial disease, known as the Black Death in the Middle Ages, is transmitted by fleas living on wild rodents like marmots. It can kill an infected human in less than 24 hours if not treated promptly. As many as 200 million people were killed by the plague in the 14th century.

The death comes after two people tested positive for the disease in the neighboring province of Khovd: a 27-year-old man and his brother, 17. Hundreds of people who came into direct or indirect contact with the brothers were vaccinated following their diagnosis. A couple died of the bubonic plague in the western Mongolian province of Bayan-Ulgii in April 2019, after eating raw marmot meat

China, Russia at High Risk of Bubonic Plague Outbreak

Marmot
Marmot is eaten in some parts of China Wikimedia commons

Neighboring Russia and China have also been warned over the possibility of a bubonic plague outbreak. The Mongolian Health Ministry said the Altai regions of China, Russia as well as Mongolia are at high risk of the plague due to infected marmots, based on a new study. The above-mentioned mountainous regions have been reported as a "highly active areas of marmot epidemics."

There is already a confirmed case in China but the exposure is limited to the infected individual, authorities believe. Officials said they were also investigating a separate suspected case of bubonic plague, according to China's Global Times. The second reported case was in a 15-year-old girl, who allegedly come into contact with a dead marmot hunted by a dog, according to the publication.

China has already closed down tourist spots in Inner Mongolia and issued a Level 3 alert that forbids the hunting and eating of animals that potentially carry plague bacteria and calls the public to report suspected cases of plague, as previously reported.

It was "very important not to hunt marmots" or consume their meat, said Dorj Narangerel, head of the ministry's public relations and surveillance department. "The marmot plague is very toxic. 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."