Teen Dies From Bubonic Plague After Eating Marmot In Kyrgyzstan, Epidemic Not Likely

A 15-year-old teen visiting relatives in southern Kyrgyzstan died from bubonic plague, and the country's health ministers are cautiously saying it was a localized incident vs. evidence of a possible epidemic.

Temirbek Isakunov contracted the disease Aug. 17 after eating barbecued marmot in the Issyk Kul province, located in southern Kyrgyzstan, and died several days later. RIA Novosti reports health officials have quarantined the 105 individuals Isakunov was in contact with prior to his death last Thursday. The teenager was a herder, and after falling ill he was sent to Karakol regional hospital where he was diagnosed with bubonic plague.

As an added measure, health officials are planning to exterminate the marmots (large ground squirrels) in the area and are evaluating other potential carriers, reports Tengrinews. The 105 quarantined individuals have shown no signs or symptoms of the disease. RIA Novosti reports the teen contracted the disease after ingesting marmot, but Tengrinews states the boy may have been bitten by a flea, citing statements made by Tolo Isakov, head of the sanitation department, at a briefing.

Dinara Saginbayeva, Kyrgyzstan's Health Minister, believes the plague is a local outbreak and says the country should not be concerned about a possible epidemic. “I can say in all certainty that there will be no plague epidemic. This is a localized outbreak,” Saginbayeva said, according to RIA Novosti.

The bubonic plague, which caused the “Black Death” that ravaged Europe during the 14 century, spread across the continent via fleas, killing an estimated 75 million to 200 million people. Individuals can contract the disease by contact with an infected animal or by consuming the undercooked meat of an infected animal, report Tengrinews.

Currently, thousands of people still contract the disease annually, but all outbreaks have been localized. Bubonic plague symptoms include fever, headache, swollen or painful lymph nodes, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can appear 7-10 days after infection, reports the World Health Organization, and the plague can be treated with antibiotics.

Sanitary stations have been set up at the border of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan as a precautionary measure. The rodents in the area will be studied, but Saginbayeva will not close the country's borders.

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