Marmacs are large terrestrial squirrels, a species of rodent that have historically been associated with outbreaks of plague in the region.
Officials from the Republican Department of Agriculture and Food have told citizens in the border area not to hunt marmots or eat marmot meat and to take preventive measures against insect bites.
Rodents are the main vector of transmission of plague from animals to humans, but the disease can also be transmitted through flea bites.
The plague killed 50 million people in Europe during the Black Death pandemic in the Middle Ages, but modern antibiotics can prevent complications and death if applied quickly enough.
Bubonic plague, which is one of the three forms of plague, causes painful, swollen lymph nodes, as well as fever, chills and cough.
Mongolia quarantined its region near the Russian border last week after laboratory tests revealed two cases of bubonic plague linked to the consumption of marmot meat, the country’s health officials said on July 1st.
The National Center for Zoonotic Diseases in Mongolia said last week it had identified and tested 146 people who had come into contact with the two infected.
The center also identified 504 people from secondary contact in Hovd province.
Russia’s embassy in Mongolia said “there are no grounds for serious concern” as Mongolian authorities impose travel restrictions and isolate infected people, according to Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.
The embassy also cited Sergei Diorditsu, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Mongolia, who reportedly said the province was monitoring seasonal outbreaks of the plague, RIA Novosti reported.
“There are natural outbreaks of plague in Mongolia and the disease is spread by targabani [Mongolian marmots], “said the embassy.
“The problem is that the locals, who, despite all the prohibitions and recommendations of the local authorities, continue to hunt and eat them, as this is a local delicacy.”
Authorities in China’s Inner Mongolia region have also confirmed a plague case.
The case in the city of Bayannur, northwest of Beijing, was confirmed on Tuesday, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
In 2019, a couple in Mongolia died after eating a kidney from a raw marmot, triggering a quarantine that left several tourists in the region.
Every year, 1,000 to 2,000 people become infected with the plague each year, according to the WHO, but this estimate does not take into account unreported cases.
CNN’s Jessie Yeung contributed to this report.