NB: This article has been corrected. An earlier version stated that the teenager contracted the disease by eating infected marmot meat. Health officials have identified two possible modes of infection – via meat or a bite by a flea living on the animal’s skin.
MOSCOW, August 26 (RIA Novosti) – Kyrgyzstan’s health officials are on alert following a local teenager’s death of bubonic plague after eating barbecued marmot, the apparent vector for the deadly disease.
A medical check confirmed a 15-year-old boy, who died last Thursday, died of bubonic plague, Kyrgyzstan’s Health Minister Dinara Saginbayeva said Monday.
The teenager, Temirbek Isakunov, told doctors upon hospitalization that he got sick after eating marmot meat he ate while visiting relatives in the country’s south, Kyrgyzstan’s daily Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper said.
The 105 people Isakunov contacted since his ill-fated rodent meal have all been quarantined, although none have showed symptoms of the disease so far, Saginbayeva said.
Kyrgyzstan’s sanitary services have launched a marmot extermination campaign in the country in response, she said.
“I can say in all certainty that there will be no plague epidemic. This is a localized outbreak,” Saginbayeva said.
Bubonic plague – the disease behind the Black Death epidemic that ravaged Europe in the 14th century – is transmitted by fleas living on small rodents. Humans can catch the disease through flea bites or close contact with infected rodents, such as dressing or consuming their meat. It is transmitted between people via coughs or sneezes once they are infected.
Though no major epidemics of bubonic plague have taken place since the early 20th century, small-scale outbreaks of the disease – which can be treated by antibiotics – continue to occur across the world, particularly in Asia. Mountainous Kyrgyzstan last saw a death from a bubonic plague in 1981, though no epidemic followed.