July 6, 2020 / 3:16 PM / a month ago

Russia cracks down on marmot hunting after bubonic plague alert

FILE PHOTO: Two marmots meet at the entrance of their lair in Yushu, west China's Qinghai province July 28, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it had stepped up patrols to stop people hunting marmots near its border with China and Mongolia after the countries reported possible cases of bubonic plague, which can be carried by the animals.

Authorities in Bayan Nur, a city in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, issued a warning on Sunday after a hospital reported a suspected case of the deadly disease.

The Chinese region forbade the hunting and eating of the large rodents and asked the public to report any suspected cases, as well as any sick or dead marmots.

Neighbouring Mongolia also reported two cases of bubonic plague linked to people eating marmot meat in its western Khovd province last week.

Authorities in Russia’s Altai region, which borders Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia, said officials were patrolling the area to enforce a ban on hunting marmots and to warn people about the dangers, TASS news agency reported.

The local branch of Rospotrebnadzor, the consumer health watchdog, said the cases across the border did not pose a threat to people in Altai, TASS reported.

The bubonic plague, known as the “Black Death” in the Middle Ages, is a highly infectious and often fatal disease that is spread mostly by rodents. Bubonic plague outbreaks have become increasingly rare.

(This story has been refiled to add dropped word “with” in first paragraph)

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Andrew Heavens

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