Couple dies of plague after eating raw marmot meat for 'good health'

A Mongolian couple reportedly died after contracting the bubonic plague from the consumption of raw marmot meat and kidney, causing a six-day quarantine in the western Bayan Olgii province of Mongolia that borders China and Russia, according to the BBC.

Several foreign tourists were among the more than 100 people who had to be isolated and treated with antibiotics during the quarantine that began on May 1 -- a necessary precaution to prevent spread of the disease which is responsible for some of the world's most gruesome pandemics.

It is believed that the couple was seeking positive health benefits when they consumed the marmot. Ariuntuya Ochirpurev, a World Health Organization official based out of Mongolia's capital city, Ulaanbaatar, told BBC that some people believe eating marmot is a folk remedy capable of delivering good health.

Rodents and the fleas that infest them, however, are the main carriers and transmitters of the plague.

Human plague was reported to the World Health Organization in Mongolia for the first time in 1989, with 68 cases resulting in 22 deaths occurring in the country over the next eight years. According to the World Health Organization, most of those cases were also associated with hunting marmot.

Plague is most frequently transmitted through bites from infected fleas, but it can also be spread by direct contact with the tissues or fluids of an infected animal or the inhalation of respiratory droplets from close contact with an infected person.

The plague is a highly contagious and devastating disease to which humans are particularly susceptible. The onset of symptoms happens suddenly within two to six days of infection and then progresses rapidly. Patients suffer from a range of symptoms, including headaches, shaking, chills, fever, malaise, pain in lymph nodes affected by the infection, shock, bleeding into skin and other organs, as well as pneumonia.

With swift antibiotic treatment in uncomplicated cases, general symptoms will usually resolve within three to five days. If antibiotic treatments are not started within approximately 18-24 hours of disease onset, the patient will most likely die.

Though the plague still affects many countries worldwide, including the western half of the United States, cases are uncommon now.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.