Mongolian Couple Contracts Bubonic Plague After Eating Raw Rodent

A couple died of bubonic plague after eating raw marmot meat.
Raw marmot meat is being blamed for a case bubonic plague that killed two people. Getty

Raw marmot meat is considered a folk remedy to ensure good health.

A quarantine was imposed in Mongolia because two people died from the bubonic plague after eating raw marmot meat, according to health officials.

The couple had eaten the rodent's raw flesh and kidney, which is thought to be a folk remedy for good health. They died soon after.

A six-day quarantine went into effect, trapping 118 people, including Western tourists from the U.S., Holland, Switzerland, Sweden and Germany, according to Agence France-Presse. 

The deaths occurred in the remote region of Bayan-Ulgii, which borders Russia and China.

There were no other reported cases of the disease, a local official told AFP.

The travel ban was lifted Tuesday.

"After the quarantine, not many people, even locals, were in the streets for fear of catching the disease," said Sebastian Pique, a 24-year-old American Peace Corps volunteer.

At least one person in Mongolia dies each year after eating the large rodent, health officials said. The meat and guts of marmots are considered a health tonic by locals. 

Hunting the rodents is illegal. The raw meat can carry Yersinia pesis, the germ that causes bubonic plague. Symptoms of the disease include chills, fever and gland swelling. It is typically spread by fleas from infected animals.

Up to 60% of the European population was wiped out by the plague in the 14th century. It is now treated with antibiotics, and the risk of death with treatment is about 10%, according to medical experts.