A Mongolian couple fell victim to an old wives’ tale, literally, and subsequently caused a quarantine that closed down a small mountainous town in western Mongolia on the border with China and Russia, according to news reports.
The married pair ate raw meat from a marmot, or large squirrel, including the kidney, gall bladder and stomach of the creature, according to The Washington Post.
They both became ill and died last month from plague, prompting a six-day quarantine in the town of Tsagaannuur, which was lifted Monday after no new cases were found.
The couple, the 38-year-old husband and his 37-year-old wife, believed the raw marmot meat and organs were a remedy for good health, the Post reported. And they are apparently not alone. Plague is a common disease in Mongolia and apparently the widest source of infection is “through contact and consumption of the marmot,” the newspaper reported, citing the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
During the Middle Ages, plague killed millions of people in Europe; the disease swept through China in the late 1800s.
Of the three forms of the plague, only one is contagious. Pneumonic plague is easily spread through the air by coughing. Bubonic and septicemic are the other two forms of plague and they are not contagious.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague, but without prompt treatment, the disease can still cause serious illness and death.
The couple left behind four children between 9 months and 14 years old.