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Kazakhstan fearful of bubonic plague spread from Kyrgyzstan

Monday, 26.08.2013, 19:44
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Kazakhstan fearful of bubonic plague spread from Kyrgyzstan
©REUTERS
Kazakhstan has toughened border control after a teenage boy -- Temirbek Issakunov, 15 -- died of bubonic plague in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz authorities insist that epidemic is not likely, Tengrinews reports citing vice-chairman of the State Committee for Health and Epidemiological Perversion of the Healthcare Ministry of Kazakhstan Zhandarbek Bekshin.

According to Mr. Bekshin, anti-bubonic teams have been dispatched to Zhambyl Oblast in southern Kazakhstan and sanitary quarantine centers have been set up. Zhambyl Oblast of Kazakhstan borders on Kyrgyzstan Issyk Kul province where the disease was registered.

"We will evaluate the scale of contacts, likely natural carriers of the disease (such as rivers). 39 percent of Kazakhstan's territory is a natural focus of plague. Now we should first of all determine who was in contact with the deceased teenager," he said.

The natural foci of plague are situated in a broad belt in the tropical and sub–tropical latitudes and the warmer parts of the temperate latitudes around the globe, between the parallels 55 degrees North and 40 degrees South in the areas with large population of all kinds of of rodents, cats and even camels. Fleas transmit the disease.

Depending on lung infection, or sanitary conditions, plague also can be spread in the air, by direct contact, or by contaminated undercooked food or materials. Natural transmission of plague to humans remains a possibility in many regions of the world, where foci exist in sylvatic rodent populations. Approximately 3,000 human cases occur worldwide annually.

Until June 2007, plague was one of the three epidemic diseases specifically reportable to the World Health Organization (the other two being cholera and yellow fever).

Sanitary quarantine hubs have also been set up at the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border crossings and customs points to monitor the situation and prevent an overspill of the disease into Kazakhstan.

The 15-year-old was a herder from a small mountain village of Ichke-Zhergez in eastern Kyrgyzstan, close to the border with Kazakhstan and the Issyk-Kul lake, AFP reports.

He died last Thursday in the Karakol regional hospital, and today the Kyrgyzstan authorities confirmed the bubonic plague, the ministry said in a statement.

"After a meeting of doctors, he was diagnosed with bubonic plague," the statement said. His body was cremated and remains were buried with special precautions.

"We suspect that the patient was infected with the plague through the bite of a flea," Tolo Isakov, a ministry official who heads the sanitation department, said at a briefing in Bishkek Monday.

The oriental rat flea carries the bubonic plague after biting an infected rodent and may then pass the disease to a human. Officials have dispatched two teams to the area to "catch, exterminate, and study rodents," Isakov said.

He added that the last recorded case of bubonic plague occurred in Kyrgyzstan 30 years ago.

Health Minister Dinara Saginbayeva aimed to dispel fears of an epidemic.

"There will not be a bubonic plague epidemic," she said. "The form of the disease in the teenager is not conducive to a plague epidemic. So there are no grounds for closing the borders."

Officials have hospitalised and isolated 105 people who have had contact with the deceased, including doctors and medical staff that treated the boy, the minister said. Doctors are also administering antibiotics in the area, she said.

Bubonic plague is a bacterial infection that is a strain of the "Black Death," a virulent disease that killed tens of millions of people in 14th century Europe. Primarily an animal disease, it is extremely rare in humans.
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