Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry has denied any new cases of bubonic plague after a 15-year-old boy died of the disease last week.
Citing an unnamed government source, AFP reported on August 27 that three more people who had had contact with the deceased were exhibiting signs of the disease and had been hospitalized.
The Health Ministry denies the three have contracted the disease. "Preliminary results are negative,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Elena Bayalinova told EurasiaNet.org on August 28.
A total of 148 people believed to have had contact with 15-year-old Temirbek Isakunov
shortly before his death on August 22 in northeastern Ak-Suu district have been quarantined and are receiving prophylactic antibiotics, the Health Ministry said in a statement. The ministry says an epidemic is unlikely and authorities are said to be controlling movement in and out of the district.
Bubonic plague killed roughly one-third of Europe's population during the Middle Ages, when it was called the Black Death. It is thought to have originated in what is now Kyrgyzstan and traveled to Europe along the Silk Road. Today the disease is treatable as long as it is caught early. Modern antibiotics reduce mortality rates from 50-60 percent to 8-10 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Moreover, bubonic plague, which often spreads by fleabites, is not as dangerous as other forms of the disease, such as airborne pneumonic plague.
Kyrgyz doctors have dismissed widespread media reports that Isakunov died after eating barbecued marmot, saying that he probably got the infection from a flea living in the marmot’s fur. The last confirmed death from the disease in Kyrgyzstan was reported in an adjacent district of Issyk-Kul province in 1981.
Kazakhstan’s Health Ministry has warned its citizens against travel to Kyrgyzstan, dealing a further blow to Kyrgyzstan’s short, and already ailing, tourist season on Lake Issyk-Kul.