Russia still has the third highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world, behind the US and Brazil, but it’s not the only deadly outbreak it has to worry about.
In nearby Mongolia in a region near the Russian border the rare, ancient bubonic plague, or known in history as the ‘Black Death’, has surfaced once again, causing Mongolia to place ares of the Western region of Khovd province along the border on lockdown.
Two cases have been confirmed after lab test results. Two brothers, 27 and 16-years old, are currently at separate hospitals in the western province of Dorj Narangerel after they ate marmot meat.
The older brother is said to be a “very severe condition” and had “multiple organ failure” according to the Mongolian ministry of health. He is being treated for “marmot plague and secondary lung disease”.
The bubonic plague can kill in 24-hours and includes the fast onset of fever and the painful rapid swelling of lymph nodes under the arms, in the neck, or in the groin. The bacteria can also infect the lungs in a rarer form of it.
The brothers are believed to have caught the disease while skinning and cleaning the marmot. Typically its spread through fleas which live off of infected rodents. Health authorities in the region have long warned of the dangers of eating marmot due the potential of catching the plague. From time to time individuals in the region have caught the plague by eating raw marmot meat.
Fearing a potential outbreak of the disease which in the 14th century wiped out one-third the population of Europe, Mongolian health authorities have begun aggressive contact tracing. China’s Xinhua news reports that at least 146 people have been isolated at local hospitals after having contact with the infected brothers. The health ministry further said it’s identified 504 second-contact individuals.
The quarantined areas of the province are reportedly not allowing vehicles or residents from outside. It’s commonly estimated that rare but renewed bouts of the bubonic plague infect about 2,000 people a year globally.
But this is not the only “new” health scare the region has to worry about. As we reported earlier, roughly half a million Chinese living in Hebei Province (not Hubei, Hebei), a province in northern China that surrounds Beijing (which operates as an independent ‘national city’) are under lockdown on fears of a new strain of flu that has “the potential to become a pandemic”.
It emerged recently in China’s already-dwindling pig population, but scientists say it can infect humans, which would make it similar to the H1N1 virus that spread across Asia and made it all the way to North America in a short-lived pandemic.
WHO investigators are en route, and likely to take this threat much more seriously after the failures and deep neglect related to the coronavirus, or let’s hope so at least.