Russian couple dies in bubonic plague scare that closes Mongolia border

A combined animal epidemic countermeasures unit member

A combined animal epidemic countermeasures unit member

Russia's Federal Agency for Tourism has issued a special warning to tourists traveling to Mongolia after two fatal cases of bubonic plague were confirmed in the country.

Bayan-Ulgii province's emergency management department said: "Preliminary test results show that bubonic plague likely caused the deaths of the two people", reported The Siberian Times.

Dramatic photographs show workers in hazmat suits walking along the aisle of an airliner at the airport in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar.

The Russian couple - a 38-year-old man and his 37-year-old pregnant wife - reportedly fell ill after hunting and eating contaminated marmot, a large species of squirrel, in Mongolia, according to the reports.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis.

According to The Siberian Times, the man died on 27 April, while the woman passed away three days later.

All passengers from Ulgii were taken to a nearby hospital, while the rest were examined separately in a sports centre.

"He ate the meat and gave it to his wife, and they died because the plague affected his stomach. Four children are orphaned", he added.

To prevent the infection spreading, around 158 people believed to have come into contact directly or indirectly with the couple were put under medical supervision. The plague can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time, according to the World Health Organisation.

Some foreign tourists have reportedly been left stranded in Mongolia after some frontier checkpoints with Russian Federation were closed.

According to the centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the symptoms of bubonic plague are as follows: "Patients develop sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness and one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes (called buboes)". Human cases have been linked to the domestic cats and dogs that brought infected fleas into the house.

The plague is believed to have wiped out almost 50 million people in Asia, Europe and Africa in the 14th century.

Antibiotics can prevent death, however hundreds have still died in recent years.