May 8, 2019

"The town of Tsagaannuur... was recently sealed off following the deaths of a local couple who contracted the plague from eating the raw meat and organs of an infected marmot..."

"... Some Mongolians believe eating the rodent’s uncooked innards to be 'very good for health,'... The husband and wife reportedly ate the kidney, gall bladder and stomach of the creature.... The 38-year-old man, who worked as a border agent, and his wife, 37, died of multiple organ failure caused by septicemic plague....  Deaths caused by the plague — a disease carried by small rodents that was responsible for wiping out a third of Europe’s population nearly 700 years ago and killing millions in China, Hong Kong and nearby port cities in the 1800s — are much more rare in modern times because of antibiotics, according to the CDC. But reports of people getting infected have continued to pop up around the world, including in the United States, William L. Gosnell, a program director with the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s department of tropical medicine, medical microbiology and pharmacology, told The Post. 'The bacteria maintains itself out in the wild in these animal populations,' said Gosnell, who is affiliated with the university’s John A. Burns School of Medicine. The plague is most commonly transmitted to humans by fleas that become infected from biting rodents carrying the yersinia pestis bacteria, which causes the disease..... Gosnell said he has never heard of a person getting the plague from eating raw rodent meat, but added that 'it wouldn’t be surprising. Any time you eat something raw, there’s always a chance for picking up all sorts of different pathogens,' he said. 'There are so many other zoonotic infections they could have picked up, unfortunately due to the locale, it just happened to be plague.... If you cook it, the bacteria is dead, you don’t got a problem,' he said. 'Some things you don’t eat raw.'"

WaPo reports.

Sometimes the precise thing you think you need to do for a particular desired goal is an easily avoided thing that is precisely what takes you as far as possible from that goal. In this case, the thing was eating raw marmot organs and the goal was good health. It's completely easy to cook the organs before eating them and cooking them would have destroyed the plague bacteria that killed them, but they seem to have thought that the rawness of the organs was the key to good health, the extreme opposite of death.

I hope it's not disrespectful to the couple who died — I'm sorry they died — to offer their story as a pattern of human decisionmaking. You're hopeful about an exciting idea — like eating raw marmot organs is good for your health — and you do it because you want what the idea says you'll get, so you do it, changing your good-enough condition into something much worse. It's the difference between do something and first do no harm. You might never consider eating raw marmot organs, but I bet that, many times, you've eaten the metaphorical raw marmot organs or voted for somebody who promised he'd make us all eat metaphorical raw marmot organs.

68 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...

I appreciate these stories, Althouse. The quirky stuff on your blog is the best.

All my conservative friends are bitching about censorship on social media. We mostly bailed on the personal weblog in favor of seeking a larger audience on FB.

In retrospect, that's not looking like a good decision. The writer is in full editorial control in the weblog.

wild chicken said...

Aaaand the raw marmot meat is like Trump!

I admit I didn't see that coming.

rhhardin said...

Edibility judgments differ in China and the West.

Michael said...


"You eat it raw!" was a high-level denunciation among the 13-year-olds when I was growing up. Little did I appreciate its wisdom.

mockturtle said...

Just as I was preparing some marmot innards for breakfast.

tim maguire said...

I don't see it as an issue of personal decision-making. They ate raw marmot meat because they live in a culture where people do things like that. They haven't been educated to the risks.

BudBrown said...

Being a metaphorical raw marmot organ. Is that either a High Crime or Misdemeanor?

Annie C. said...

The TV chef Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods and other shows often eats raw organ meat. He has been to many parts of the world eating insects and other meals we consider odd or gross, but are a normal part of a region's diet.

Even shows he did in the States highlighting Appalachian food and food along the Oregon Trail or other westward movements often included organ meats, eaten raw, barely seared, and fully cooked.

He doesn't promote that type of eating as a cure for anything (although he has taken part in different curative meals, drinks and ceremonies) but rather, he is a huge proponent of using all parts of an animal and finding ways to get food in lesser developed countries.

How is this couple's belief any different than a chiropractor in Philadelphia telling me he cures people of cancer by cracking their back. Everyone knows that cancer comes from misalignment.

And how is this different than Gwyneth Paltrow's claims about inserting jade eggs and garlic in your vagina?

born01930 said...

metaphorical raw marmot organs...sonorous wording that flowed as effortlessly from your fingertips

tim in vermont said...

Don’t drop character ST! But I agree with you. If she was on Twitter or FB, her every post would be scanned for any word or phrase that could plausibly misconstrued as what is a very broadly defined as “hate speech,” the definition of which is constantly “evolving."

gilbar said...

GOD gave us fire, for a reason; and that reason Was, to purify our food
(and, to have something to use to make Steel; but mostly to purify our food)

It Insults GOD, when we ignore His Gifts.

Wince said...

“...so you do it, changing your good-enough condition into something much worse. It's the difference between do something and first do no harm.”

Like the movie The Fly.

“Marmot Politics”?

James K said...

Here in the educated West we were told for decades to eliminate fat and eat lots of grains, in that notorious “food pyramid.” That probably ended up killing a lot more people than have ever died from raw marmot organs.

stlcdr said...

Blogger tim maguire said...
I don't see it as an issue of personal decision-making. They ate raw marmot meat because they live in a culture where people do things like that. They haven't been educated to the risks.

5/8/19, 7:48 AM


This, essentially, sums up the issue, here, and a wide variety of problems faced by people around the world - the US included. There are people whose agenda specifically requires ignorance.

traditionalguy said...

But they seem so cute. We called them snow pigs and ground hogs. Now they are the Black Death.

readering said...

Here in the west we don't eat raw marmot.

Now pardon me while I seek inspiration by taking a selfie by the edge of this steep drop....

Wince said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wince said...

Student at Assembly: “Eat it Raw!”

Principal Poop: “Raw. Raw. Raw. That’s the spirits we have here at Moore Science High!”

Phil 314 said...

Did he get it from eating the meat or when he skinned it and was bitten by one of the fleas on the carcass? Plague is transmitted by fleas who carry the bacterial.

Rory said...

Them marmot organs can wipe you out.

Kevin said...

I can’t count the number of centenarians who ascribe their long lives to uncooked marmot innards.

AllenS said...

Can we still eat gophers? Asking for a friend.

Fernandinande said...

In Era of Trump's America, large diseased Mongolian rodent eats you.

jaydub said...

Are marmot organs organic?

alanc709 said...

In Soviet Union, marmot innerds eat YOU.

gilbar said...

stlcdr said... There are people whose agenda specifically requires ignorance.

57% of Democrats Believe President Trump Guilty of Treason

Fernandinande said...

"You eat it raw!"

"That’s the spirit we have here at More Science High!"

Xmas said...

When I was flying to South Africa a bunch, I kept hearing stories about bushmeat being confiscated by US customs. It's a similar deal, a vector for diseases and parasites. I don't think marmots are endangered or protected, but some bushmeat animals were.

wildswan said...

Vote for Socialism. By giving up everything you will have more.

Big Mike said...

Article is behind a paywall. Can someone clarify for me — was the the whole village sealed off because the couple died? Seems extreme. Did the article explain the rationale?

mockturtle said...

Are marmot organs organic?

Well, they are gluten-free!

Bob Boyd said...

You're arguing from the particular to general. Okay, sure, once in while you get a hold of a bad marmot, but it's the same with apples. You don't give up on apples, right?
We need to see a lot more dead marmot eaters before we can fairly come to the conclusion that eating marmots is bad.

Bob Boyd said...

was the the whole village sealed off because the couple died? Seems extreme. Did the article explain the rationale?

Marmot cravings.

tcrosse said...

They had to eat raw marmot organs because CBD oil was not available.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Aaaand the raw marmot meat is like Trump!

"If you like your Marmot, you can eat your Marmot !"

Fernandinande said...

was the the whole village sealed off because the couple died? Seems extreme.

Check it out on a map - it's basically a trailer court on a mudflat.

Get woke, Wappo! -

The 38-year-old man, who worked as a border agent, and his wife, 37,

The 37-year-old woman and her husband, 38, who worked as a border agent,

Lewis Wetzel said...

If food lines are a sign of prosperity, why can't eating raw marmot organs be good for your health?
Go on! Show me the flaw in my logic!

JAORE said...

If I have to eat raw marmot meat, I'm glad I can keep my doctor.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Godammit, now I'm hungry for marmot.

Fernandinande said...

Also in the Wappo, perhaps to counterbalance their deep sexism -

Chicago Cubs investigating fan who made "OK" sign, "and threatened to ban the fan for life."

Curious George said...

It would be cool to be the bookkeeper for the town of Tsagaannuur.

MadisonMan said...

I read a book on the Plague this past year, and the link to Mongolia and marmots was in the book. So this didn't surprise me.

But eating raw rodent meat? eew.

Bill Crawford said...

"There's a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death."

Lewis Wetzel said...

"Okay, Pepe, we saw you making that okay sign. You are banned for life, hater!'
"But . . . but it wan't an 'okay' sign. I was making a Hitler salute."
"Well, okay, then, but I've got my eyes on you, freak."

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

There’s shitholes, and then there’s marmot-eating shitholes. Absurd and sad in equal measure. It sucks to be sandwiched between the Russian Empire and the heathen Chinee. Mongolia should have long since been exporting consumer electronics and Trabant-like cars for the Third World market.

Fernandinande said...

"Ohh, nice marmot!"

Seeing Red said...

More people get sick from eating the lettuce at chipotle.

Lucien said...

The Mongolians are feeling marginalized by folks who refer to the Dish as “Marmot Tartar”.

also, a medical guy named Gosnell??

Bob Boyd said...

But eating raw rodent meat? eew.

I'm just grateful the news wasn't somebody died of plague after having had sex with a marmot.
Marmots aren't native to Florida, so that helps. A lot of potential marmot rapers down there, I suspect.

stephanie delmonico said...

This article brings up a tangential fear I have: Scientists seem to agree that the great leap forward in human intelligence came when our ancestors learned to cook food, particularly meat. Cooking food made it not only safer, but also more easily digestible. Cooking also allowed humans to obtain more vital nutrients from the food they eat. No more massive bellies needed to carry large amounts of masticated raw material as our guts struggled to pull all the nutrients out of the food as possible. With cooked food, the brain got bigger and the stomach smaller.

Today we face a great threat of our own making. It wasn't until the wars of Napoleon that we humans learned how to preserve food in cans. Essentially, the food is cooked in the tin can and then sealed under sterile conditions, e.g. immersion in boiling water. That treatment applies to how pet food is canned. So those of us who feed our pets food from the can are feeding them cooked meat. The danger is obvious... in just a few short generations we're going to be faced with a world full of pets just a bit smarter than Chuck. Will they (the pets) start populating intelligent blogs like this one with unjustified snark, pretzel logic, and whining commentary?
Well, probably not. Being a little bit smarter than Chuck, that is.

Nevermind.

Or am In on to something?

Dave Begley said...

Let’s import more people from shithole countries. More of this.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

'6 Degrees of Donald' ??
easy!
Man dies eating raw marmot-->to self-medicate-->because no healthcare-->
because TRUMP! is against universal healthcare

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

...and please shorten the town's name to 'Tsaganur'.

Using all those extra letters is wasteful, and it hurts the environment

Fran Waxman said...

Is sushi safe to eat? I doubt it. A Japanese man told me to eat the pink radish and wasabi that comes with the fish because it can help kill parasites in the raw fish. That's no comfort to me. I stopped eating raw fish. Sayonara.

n.n said...

Chinese have been know to eat human babies... fetuses, perhaps related to their one-child policy and the emptiness of the great leap. In America, recycled-child requires that organs and perception are first sanitized.

Michael McNeil said...

If she [Althouse] was on Twitter or FB, her every post would be scanned for any word or phrase that could plausibly misconstrued as what is a very broadly defined as “hate speech,” the definition of which is constantly “evolving.”

Who's to say that Google (and other blog hosts) won't soon start doing that for bloggers' Blogger (et al.) posts?

Michael The Magnificent said...

Here in Wisconsin, we have a dish that's popular around the holidays (though not nearly as popular as it once was) which is known as the Cannibal Sandwich.

Only once in my life was a desperately hungry enough to try one, and it was delicious.

dbp said...

Strawberry Phil,

"Did he get it from eating the meat or when he skinned it and was bitten by one of the fleas on the carcass? Plague is transmitted by fleas who carry the bacterial."

I was thinking along the same lines, but you can also get plague from air borne particles of the bacteria, this is called pneumatic plague and it is much more deadly than bubonic. The bubos as mentioned are from a localized infection swelling in the first lymph node the germ gets to after the flea bite that gets the germ in.

I don't know if there are any real data on getting the disease by eating infected animals--it is kind of a bad idea to eat a sick animal or one that died of natural causes. But it stands to reason that if you can get pneumatic plague, then the germs are capable of infecting endothelial tissue--though, unlike your stomach, the lungs are not full of acid.

My bet is that they got bit by a flea, or had cuts on their hands or in their mouth.

Wa St Blogger said...

I wonder if Althouse was fishing for other examples of doing X will give you Z when the opposite turns out to be true and you should be doing Y instead.

e.g. Doing socialism will give you empowerment when in actuality, doing socialism will give you the opposite of empowerment. You should have been doing capitalism.

feminists-should-thank-god-for-capitalism


Michael McNeil said...

When I was flying to South Africa a bunch, I kept hearing stories about bushmeat being confiscated by US customs. It's a similar deal, a vector for diseases and parasites. I don't think marmots are endangered or protected, but some bushmeat animals were.

You mean protected “bush meat” animals like chimpanzees and gorillas? As Mark Steyn has sadly noted, even Pygmies (which is to say: Homo sapiens — human beings) were a popular add-on to the native bush-meat cooking pot just a couple of decades ago around the time of the Congolese civil war.

Michael K said...

Plague is endemic in ground squirrels in California, usually in the Sierras. There are a few cases every year, usually campers who slept on the ground. In about 1928, there was an outbreak at LA County Hospital that killed a bunch of doctors and nurses.

It was 1924 and mostly pneumonic.

Most plague infections begin as bubonic but pneumonic can develop later. In ancient epidemics, those caring for the victims usually did not become infected.

The Los Angeles outbreak began on October 30, lasted two weeks, and killed 30 people.

Michael McNeil said...

Can we still eat gophers? Asking for a friend.

As a matter of history, the 19th-century Asian plague epidemic(s) which Althouse referred to above got carried by trans-Pacific shipping across to the west coast of North America, whereupon the plague bacterium encountered and infected American rodents in the West — where the disease has remained endemic ever since. (Which is the reason one hears every now and then of somebody visiting, e.g., the Arizona desert who nonetheless comes down with plague!)

So — no, not at least without cooking the animal.

gspencer said...

See, all cultures are equally valid.

walter said...

If you tire of organ cranks, explore crank organs.

YoungHegelian said...

"It took me four days to hitch-hike from Tsagaannuur,

IIIIIII've come to look for

Mon-Goooooooooooooooooo-Liiii-A!"


(with apologies to S&G)

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I used to ride a bicycle to work, seven miles each way on a busy highway at rush hour. I did this primarily for the sake of my health. I was always painfully aware that I stood a very good chance of getting ironically run over and killed while on my quest of escaping infirmity.

jg said...

'better than nothing is a high bar'

Unknown said...

Mongolia should have long since been exporting consumer electronics and Trabant-like cars for the Third World market.

They are exporting some neat music. I just found out about The HU band. Check YouTube.

Can we still eat gophers?

In Colorado, watch out for the prairie dogs; they carry it. Since it is illegal to kill a prairie dog colony, if one gets in the way, we have prairie dog vacuums that suck them up so they can be deposited elsewhere. Yes, really.

Is sushi safe to eat? I think that's answered by More people get sick from eating the lettuce at chipotle. Don't eat freshwater fish raw. Ocean fish only.

Since blogger is eating my name in a fresh, new way, today,
-mrsizer