Mongolia quarantined the regional border with Russia because testing found the presence of the bubonic plague. The first case was found in Bayannur, which is to the northwest of Beijing. A Level 3 warning for prevention will stay in place until 2021 to ensure hospitals remain alert.
What makes the plague such a dangerous infection is that people taking antibiotics may not survive. Although the rates are much lower than the 93% fatality rate found in the Dark Ages, 16% of those who get these bacteria die.
Health authorities in Mongolia are asking people to take extra precautions to prevent human-to-human transmission.
Marmots Are Thought to Be Responsible
Authorities are telling the general public to avoid sick or dead marmots in the area. This type of large ground squirrel is part of the local cuisine, which is why fears of uncontrolled transmission still exist.
About 63,000 people died in 1911 when a pneumonic plague epidemic started from the animal. It came from diseased fur products that got transported and traded around the country. The first two cases of the bubonic type came from brothers who had eaten infected meat.
A third confirmed case in the region came from a teenager who had also eaten marmot meat in recent days.
These incidents follow the death of a Mongolian couple last May from bubonic plague after eating the raw kidney from one. Two others developed the symptoms of pneumonic plague in Inner Mongolia from a similar issue.
Will Bubonic Plague Become Another Pandemic?
About 1,000 to 2,000 people get the bubonic plague each year. Although unreported cases could cause those numbers to go higher, most countries don’t have endemic issues. The average number of fatalities from this infection in the United States is only one.
The three places where plague is known to exist permanently are Madagascar, Peru, and the Republic of the Congo.
Despite its global presence, the threat of this severe illness becoming another pandemic is minimal. Even if someone gets exposed, early treatment is almost certain to eradicate the bacteria.
The best preventative measures to take are to avoid contact with infected animals. Exposure to contaminated body fluids from a carcass can spread the bacteria. You can also get it from infected fleas.