Bubonic Plague: Terrified Tourists Quarantined After 'Black Death' Outbreak in Mongolia

Livestock wander along the frozen landscape March 14, 2010 in Bayantsogt, Tuv province in Mongolia. There has been a reported outbreak of Bubonic Plague in the landlocked central Asian country. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Passengers have been taken off a plane and put under medical supervision over fears they had contact with a couple who died from the bubonic plague.

Emergency staff in protective clothing boarded the plane, which had arrived in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar from the cities of Bayan, Uglii and Kohvd, The Siberian Times reported.

They were deployed amid concerns that passengers had been in contact, either directly or indirectly, with a husband and his pregnant wife, aged 38 and 37 and from Uglii, who had died from the disease on April 27.

Eleven passengers from the west of Mongolia were held at the airport and sent immediately for hospital checks, while more than 150 others were examined at the airport.

The couple were said to have contracted the killer disease after eating a marmot, which is a large squirrel.

Dr N. Tsogbadrakh, director of Mongolia's National Center for Zoonotic Dermatology and Medicine, said, according to The Siberian Times: "Despite the fact that eating marmots is banned, Citizen T [the male victim] 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.'

In addition, a key border near the Russian city of Novosibirsk and the Mongolian city of Uglii was suddenly closed until May 5.

The World Health Organization says that the bubonic plague can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated properly and is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is usually found in small mammals and their fleas.

Bubonic plague fears as 'infected' plane passengers are rushed off quarantined plane https://t.co/mEW8Ionbog pic.twitter.com/6D9mnzGWFo

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Human symptoms of infection include fever, chills, headaches and often a swelling of lymph nodes under the armpit.

The bacterium was linked to the Black Death that killed more than a third of Europe's population in the 14th century.

The WHO said that between 2010 and 2015 there were 3,248 cases reported worldwide, including 584 deaths. There are plague vaccines but none are available to the general public, Mail Online reported.

Last year a young boy in Idaho was diagnosed with the disease in the first human case in the state since the early 1990s, Mail Online reported.

The disease is understood to infect around seven Americans a year and is generally treatable with antibiotic medication. There are still outbreaks of the disease in Africa. In 2017, some 200 people died of the plague in Madagascar.