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2020 latest: Mongolia quarantines western region near Russian border after bubonic plague outbreak (but Moscow's not worried)

2020 latest: Mongolia quarantines western region near Russian border after bubonic plague outbreak (but Moscow's not worried)
Just when you thought this year couldn’t get any worse, there’s more bad news. Mongolia has quarantined an entire region after identifying two people with symptoms of bubonic plague – only 300km from the frontier with Russia.

According to local reports, a man and a woman from Mongolia’s western Khovd region are thought to have contracted the disease after eating raw marmot meat. Before the pair were hospitalized, at least 146 people had come into direct contact with them, and 504 had been indirectly exposed.

Although Khovd is not directly adjacent to Russia, the border is just a five-hour drive away. However, experts think the disease poses no threat to the world’s biggest country.

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According to the website CentralAsia, this isn’t the first time there’s been an outbreak of bubonic plague in Mongolia. As recently as April 2019, a couple died of the plague after consuming the same type of meat. In Russia, the last-recorded case was in 2016, in Altay, and there have been no deaths for more than a hundred years.

“There is absolutely no threat to us. The fact is, bubonic plague is not transmitted from person to person – it is not contagious,” said Vladimir Nikiforov, the chief infectious diseases specialist at Russia’s Federal Biomedical Agency. According to the expert, Russia is well aware of the existence of “foci of plague along the border with Mongolia,” and, as a precaution, Russian hunters “are warned that it is prohibited to hunt marmots there.” The Mongolian authorities have imposed a quarantine and blocked all exits from the region.

Bubonic plague is a bacterial disease that primarily affects wild rodents. It spreads from one animal to another through fleas. According to Nikiforov, the Mongolian pair were probably bitten while cutting and preparing the marmots.

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