Health officials in Mongolia. Source: centralasia.media

Mongolia has quarantined its western region near the border with Russia after identifying two people with suspected cases of the black plague linked to the consumption of marmot meat.

Mongolian Media reports suggested that the victims were a 27-year-old male and a young woman of unknown age.

Lab tests were able to confirm that the two individuals, one of whom is said to be in “critical condition”, contracted the “marmot plague” in the region of Khovd, Mongolia’s National Center for Zoonotic Disease (NCZD) said in a statement.

The organization is now tracking individuals that came in contact with the infected cases. So far the organization has analyzed samples from 146 people and found 504 second-contact individuals.

The NCZD also announced that it had quarantined the provincial capital and one of the region’s districts about 500 kilometers south of the southern Siberian republics of Tyva and Altai and vehicles are now temporarily banned from entering the region.

This is not the first time an issue like this has arisen in the country. In May 2019, Mongolia closed a key border crossing with Russia on suspicion that it may have played a role in an outbreak of the plague, leaving several Russian tourists stranded.

A husband and wife had died after eating marmot meat in that incident.