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Tourists halted after couple die from eating squirrel kidney

May 8, 2019 Headline News No Comments

European tourists visiting a spectacular part of Asia have been prevented from leaving after the horrific death of a couple who ate part of a giant rodent.

Since a Mongolian couple caught the Black Plague (bubonic plague) from a meal of marmot kidney, authorities have imposed a total quarantine that has left tourists stranded.

It should be noted that the deceased couple ate their marmot kidney raw.

Marmots are large squirrels in the genus Marmota. The animal family is Sciuridae, which includes small or medium-size rodents. Marmots tend to live in mountainous regions.

The ethnic Kazakh couple died in Mongolia’s westernmost province of Bayan-Ulgii, which borders Russia and China. An immediate quarantine, declared after the deaths, has prevented tourists from Russia, Germany and Switzerland from leaving the country, the Guardian has reported. The quarantine is due to be lifted soon.

The paper quoted an American Peace Corps volunteer who has lived in Mongolia for two years saying that even locals fled the streets after hearing of the outbreak of the Black Death.

The plague has been greatly feared throughout the world since it killed about one third of the population of Europe in medieval times.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) does not specifically warn of the Black Death in Mongolia, but it warns of rabies, saying: “avoid contact with dogs and other animals as they may carry dangerous diseases, such as rabies. If bitten or scratched, immediately use soap and water, and wash the wound thoroughly. Seek urgent medical attention”.

Himalayan Marmot

DFAT adds that water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), hepatitis, measles, meningitis, rabies, typhoid and tuberculosis) are prevalent in Mongolia, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

A report in the Guardian notes that Mongolian authorities have warned people against eating raw marmot meat because it can carry Yersinia pestis, the plague bacillus.

“Some people ignore the warnings as they believe that consuming the innards of the large rodent is good for their health.”

Tourists are unlikely to eat raw rodent meat knowingly. Travellers thinking of becoming vegetarians or vegans may find Mongolia a good place to begin.

Written by Peter Needham

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