Two cases of the disease were confirmed in Mongolia's province of Khovd last week. Media reported on Monday that another suspected case of the bubonic plague had been identified in western Mongolia. Moreover, a herder in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was also diagnosed with the bubonic plague on Sunday, domestic media reported. Notably, in May 2019, two people in Mongolia died from the plague, which they contracted after eating the raw meat of a marmot.
"These are usually isolated cases that can be quickly contained by antibiotic treatment and the isolation of the patients. This is not considered to be a danger for the neighboring countries and for Europe because these cases can be contained locally. The Mongolian Public Health authorities should inform hunters and the general public to avoid touching Marmots or to handle them with utmost care," Zinsstag, who has great work experience in Mongolia, said.
The public health specialist explained that bacteria Yersinia pestis, the agent of the bubonic plague, is carried by marmots in Mongolia. The expert recalled that such concept was described by Soviet zoologist and entomologist Evgeny Pavlovsky in the middle of the 20th century.
Zinsstag noted that if hunters kill marmots and fleece them or come into contact with raw meat, they expose themselves to Yersinia pestis, which can result in the clinical plague.
"We do not expect a new epidemic/pandemic of bubonic plague from isolated cases originating from marmots in Mongolia. Such cases will be contained in Mongolia. High-level transmission is only observed under poor hygienic conditions where rat fleas can multiply to large numbers," Zinsstag said.
Effective preventive measures include the control of rodents, especially rats, careful solid waste management and sanitation, as well as personal hygiene and avoiding touching rodents and marmots.
"The European countries are well prepared to contain a case of clinical plague with isolation patient rooms and adequate care," Zinsstag said.
Russia has echoed this opinion.
Director of the First Asian Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry Georgiy Zinoviev said earlier on Tuesday that Moscow does not see any serious threat from the possible spread of the bubonic plague from Mongolia and China, as the movement of people across the border has been almost completely stopped.