Marmots are large ground squirrels, a species of rodent, that have historically been associated with plague epidemics in the region.
Officials of the Republic Ministry of Agriculture and Food have told citizens in the border area not to hunt marmots and not to eat marmots, and to take preventive measures against insect bites.
Rodents are the main vector of transmission of plague from animals to humans, but the disease can also be transmitted through flea bites.
The plague killed about 50 million people in Europe during the Black Death pandemic in the Middle Ages, but modern antibiotics can prevent complications and death if applied quickly enough.
Bubonic plague, which is one of the three forms of plague, causes painful, swollen lymph nodes, as well as fever, chills, and cough.
Mongolia quarantined its area near the Russian border last week after laboratory tests showed two cases of bubonic plague linked to the consumption of marmot meat, health officials said on July 1st.
The National Center for Zoonotic Diseases in Mongolia announced last week that it had identified and tested 146 people who had come in contact with two infected people.
The center also identified 504 persons of secondary contact in Khovd province.
Russia’s embassy in Mongolia said “there is no cause for serious concern” because Mongolian authorities have imposed travel restrictions and isolated infected people, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
The embassy also invited Sergei Diorditsu, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Mongolia, who reportedly said the province was recording seasonal plague epidemics, RIA Novosti reported.
“There are natural foci of plague in Mongolia, and the disease is spread by tarbagans [Mongolian marmots]”, it was said in the embassy.
“The problem is that local residents who, despite all the bans and recommendations of local authorities, continue to hunt and eat them, because it is a local delicacy.”
Authorities in China’s Inner Mongolia region have also confirmed the plague case.
The case in the city of Bayannur, northwest of Beijing, was confirmed on Tuesday, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
In 2019, a couple in Mongolia died after eating a kidney of a raw marmot, initiating quarantine that left several tourists in line in the region.
Anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people are infected with the plague each year, according to the WHO, but that estimate does not take into account unreported cases.
CNS Jessie Yeung contributed to this report.