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Medics rush to quarantine plane passengers after couple die from bubonic plague

A married couple have died leaving their four children orphaned after an outbreak of the bubonic plague, which sparked plane panic.

The man, 38 – named only as Citizen T – and his pregnant wife, 37, are thought to have fallen ill after hunting and eating contaminated marmot, a large species of squirrel, in Mongolia.

The man died on April 27 and the woman died three days later, reports The Siberian Times.

The highly contagious bacterial disease is spread by fleas living on wild rodents.

It has sparked fears of an outbreak and urgent measures and precautions have been put in place to stop the infection spreading.


Around 158 people have been put under intensive medical supervision after coming into contact directly or indirectly with the couple.

There were dramatic scenes when a flight from Bayan, Ulgii and Khovd in Mongolia – the area where the couple fell ill – was met by workers in white anti-contamination suits as it landed in the country's capital of Ulaanbaatar.

Eleven passengers from the west of the country were held at the airport and sent immediately for hospital checks.

Others were examined in a special facility at the airport.


Paramedics in anti-contamination boarded the flight as soon as it landed.

Some frontier check points with Russia are reported to have been closed leading to foreign tourists being stranded in Mongolia.

Dr N.Tsogbadrakh, director of National Centre for Zoonotic Dermatology and Medicine, said: "Despite the fact that eating marmots is banned, Citizen T hunted marmot.


"He ate the meat and gave it to his wife, and they died because the plague affected his stomach. 

"Four children are orphaned."

Bubonic plague is believed to be the cause of the Black Death that spread through Asia, Europe and Africa in the 14th century, killing an estimated 50 million people.

The plague is a bacterial disease that is spread by fleas living on wild rodents such as marmots.

The disease can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time, according to the World Health Organisation.

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