Two people have died after contracting Bubonic Plague in the province of Bayan-Ulgii in Western Mongolia. The victims have been described as a 38-year-old man and his 37-year-old pregnant wife, who were ethnic Kazakh couple with Russian citizenship. They apparently contracted the disease after eating raw Marmot, a local folk remedy, despite warnings from local authorities about the dangers of this practise. The man is reported to have died on Saturday 27 April, and the woman on Monday 29; they are survived by four young children. The deaths prompted a six-day-long quarantine of the area, a measure intended to ensure that any further victims did not spread the disease to other parts of the country, but no more cases of the desease were found. Several foreign tourists temporarily trapped by the quarantine order have now been allowed to continue their journeys.
Officials in hazmat suits at a border post between Bayan-Ulgii and Russia during a quarantine imposed to prevent the spread of Bubonic Plague last week. The Siberian Times.
Plague is caused by Yersinia pestis, the same Bacterium that causes Bubonic Plague. The Bacterium is indigenous to Mongolia, with outbreaks of Plague being a regular occurrence. Yersinia pestis generally responds well to antibiotics, but the alarm caused by the diseases it causes can provoke excessive use, leading to shortages when they are most needed.
Mass of Yersinia pestis Bacteria. Wikipedia.
Yersinia pestis is a Gram-negative, facultatively anaerobic (i.e. capable of using oxygen, but not needing it), rod-shaped Gammaproteobacteria, related to other pathogenic Bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae (Cholera), and Esherchia coli (food poisoning).It is a zoonotic disease, naturally occurring in a variety of Rodents, but capable of infecting Humans, typically via Fleas, which spread the disease by biting both their regular Rodent hosts and Humans. Zoonotic diseases can be particularly dangerous, as Humans are not part of their natural life-cycle, with the effect that they are not under evolutionary pressure to keep Human hosts alive in order to perpetuate themselves. Such diseases typically have short duration and a high fatality rate, though epidemics usually burn out quickly.
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