Bubonic plague outbreak feared in central Asia

Health officials on alert after teenager who ate infected barbecued marmot dies and three others are admitted to hospital

A Marmot. Temirbek Isakunov reportedly died from bubonic plague after eating a marmot

A Marmot. Temirbek Isakunov reportedly died from bubonic plague after eating an infected barbecued marmot Photograph: Xinhua/Landov/Barcroft Media


Health officials fear an outbreak of bubonic plague in central Asia after a teenage boy died from the disease and three more were admitted to hospital in Kyrgyzstan.

Temirbek Isakunov, a 15-year-old from a mountain village near the border with Kazakhstan, reportedly died from the disease last week after eating an infected barbecued marmot. Kyrgyzstan’s emergency ministry said a young woman and two children from a different village who came into contact with Isakunov were hospitalised on Tuesday with the high fever and swelling around the neck and armpits characteristic of bubonic plague, local news outlets reported.

A total of 131 people, including 33 medical personnel, have been quarantined, although none of them have yet exhibited symptoms of the disease, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in Kyrgyzstan reported. The health ministry continues to find and quarantine people who came into contact with the teenager, according to its director.

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Boy dies of plague in Kyrgyzstan

A 15-year-old herder has died in Kyrgyzstan of bubonic plague – the first case in the country in 30 years – officials say.


The teenager appears to have been bitten by an infected flea.

The authorities have sought to calm fears of an epidemic and have quarantined more than 100 people.

Bubonic plague, known as the Black Death when it killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages, is now rare.

The teenager, named as Temir Issakunov, came from a mountain village in the north-east of the country, close to the border with Kazakhstan.

“We suspect that the patient was infected with the plague through the bite of a flea,” health ministry official Tolo Isakov said.

He said teams had been sent to the area to get rid of rodents, which host the fleas that can carry the deadly bacterium.

The teenager died last week, but doctors have only now diagnosed the cause. More than 2,000 people are being tested for bubonic plague in the Issik-Kul region.

Checkpoints have been set up and travel and livestock transport restricted.

Aside from the quarantine measures, doctors have also been prescribing antibiotics in the area.

Kazakhstan is reported to have tightened border controls to prevent the disease entering its territory.

According to the World Health Organisation, the last recorded outbreak of bubonic plague was in Peru in 2010 when 12 people were found to have been infected.