Bubonic plague outbreak feared in central Asia
Health officials on alert after teenager who ate infected barbecued marmot dies and three others are admitted to hospital
Health officials fear an outbreak of bubonic plague in central Asia after a teenage boy died from the disease and three more were admitted to hospital in Kyrgyzstan.
Temirbek Isakunov, a 15-year-old from a mountain village near the border with Kazakhstan, reportedly died from the disease last week after eating an infected barbecued marmot. Kyrgyzstan’s emergency ministry said a young woman and two children from a different village who came into contact with Isakunov were hospitalised on Tuesday with the high fever and swelling around the neck and armpits characteristic of bubonic plague, local news outlets reported.
A total of 131 people, including 33 medical personnel, have been quarantined, although none of them have yet exhibited symptoms of the disease, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in Kyrgyzstan reported. The health ministry continues to find and quarantine people who came into contact with the teenager, according to its director.
Kazakhstan has stepped up its border control with Kyrgyzstan and is operating quarantine points in light of the possible outbreak, the news agency Tengrinews reported. The Kazakh health ministry is searching out people who might have come into contact with the dead teenager, and is also determining where animal carriers of the disease might be moving between the two countries, according to a ministry official.
The bacteria that cause bubonic plague are typically transmitted from rodents to humans via flea bites but can also be contracted through direct contact with infected tissue.
Some local authorities in Russia have also grown wary over the incident, since citizens of Kyrgyzstan do not need a visa to enter the country and, according to the newspaper Izvestiya, more than 500,000 Kyrgyz work in Russia. According to TV news report in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city, checkpoints in the airport there are inspecting all those arriving from countries with a high bubonic plague risk.
A Russian public health official said cases of bubonic plague were registered in Kazakhstan every year, and the disease existed naturally in parts of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia, Izvestiya reported.