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Mongolian teen said to have died of bubonic plague caught from infected marmot

Parts of Gobi-Altai put under quarantine and related case reported in China; hundreds of cases and deaths reported each year

In this photo taken on May 25, 2016, a marmot is pictured at the Animal Park of Sainte-Croix in Rhodes, eastern France  (Jean Christophe VERHAEGEN / AFP)
In this photo taken on May 25, 2016, a marmot is pictured at the Animal Park of Sainte-Croix in Rhodes, eastern France (Jean Christophe VERHAEGEN / AFP)

A 15-year-old boy has died in western Mongolia of bubonic plague, the country’s national news agency reported.

The Mongolian Health Ministry said laboratory tests confirmed the teenager died of plague that he contracted from an infected marmot, according to the Montsame News Agency.

The case prompted the government to impose a quarantine on a portion of the province of Gobi-Altai. Montsame said 15 people who had contact with the boy were isolated.

In an unrelated case in neighboring China, a patient who was infected with plague in the northern region of Inner Mongolia is improving, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

Xinhua said 15 people who had close contact with the patient were released from quarantine on Sunday. The agency said the government ended its top-level emergency response.

An official announcement earlier said a warning for the public in the Bayannur region of Inner Mongolia to avoid eating marmot and to report dead animals would last through the end of 2020.

Attention on the plague has ramped up this year as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

The zoonotic disease, which historians say wiped out as much as a third of Europe during the Middle Ages, continues to stalk the globe on a much smaller scale, though it no longer poses the threat it once did. However, it remains deadly if untreated.

According to the World Health Organization, from 2010 to 2015, there were 3,248 cases of bubonic plague reported worldwide, including 584 deaths.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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