Couple reportedly dies of the plague after eating raw marmot meat

The Washington Post reported that, according to Ariuntuya Ochirpurev with the World Health Organization in Ulaanbaatar, the husband and wife ate the kidney, gall bladder and stomach of the rodent. The large squirrel found in the region was infected, causing them to contract the plague. 

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Ochirpurev told The Post it is believed by some Mongolians that eating the raw organs of the marmot is “very good for health.”  BBC News reported that the marmot is a known carrier of the plague bacteria and is typically associated with cases of the plague in Mongolia. It’s illegal to hunt the rodent.

The 38-year-old border agent and his 37-year-old wife died of multiple organ failure because of the plague, Ochirpurev said. The man came down with a fever late last month and was dead within a week. His wife was hospitalized when she had severe headaches and was vomiting blood. She died May 1, Ochirpurev said.

Related: Researchers: Man dies after contracting disorder after eating squirrel brains

More than 100 people came in contact with the couple, Ochirpurev told BBC News, including tourists from Sweden, South Korea, Kazakhstan and Switzerland. They were isolated and treated with antibiotics. 

BBC News reported that a six-day quarantine was declared in the Bayan Olgii province of the country, where the town the couple lived in is located. 

An alpine marmot stands near a parking lot in Switzerland. A similar species of marmot is believed to have caused the deaths of a Mongolian couple who ate the raw meat of a rodent infected by the plague.
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the plague is a disease that affects humans and other mammals. Humans typically get infected when they are bitten by rodent fleas carrying the bacterium or by handling an infected animal. 

The plague still occurs in the western U.S., but cases appear more often in parts of Asia and Africa. Symptoms depend on how the patient was exposed to the plague bacteria, but according to the CDC, the septicemic plague may appear in the form of chills, fever, extreme weakness, abdominal pain, shock and bleeding into organs.

It’s recommend to thoroughly cook any wild rodent before eating it. In the U.S., the CDC recommends applying flea treatments to dogs, reducing rodent habitat around your home and wearing gloves when handling or skinning animals that may be infected.

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