A marmot was at the root of a pneumonic plague outbreak in northwest China that has claimed three lives, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday.
"According to the epidemiological investigation, the source of this outbreak was a wild marmot," which later came into contact with a dog, said the UN health agency in a statement.
On August 1, China reported an outbreak of pulmonary plague in Ziketan, a remote town in a Tibetan area of Qinghai province, the WHO said.
A 32-year-old herdsman was the first person to die from the outbreak. His 64-year-old father-in-law and a 37-year-old male neighbour have also died from the disease.
The WHO said the three deaths have been "attributed largely to delayed treatment."
Nine other people, mainly relatives who attended the funeral of the first victim, are still hospitalised, with seven in stable condition, one showing acute symptoms of fever and cough, and another in critical condition.
Chinese media had earlier reported that a dog which ate a plague-infected marmot was suspected to be the origin of the outbreak.
The first victim had been infected after he was bitten by fleas while burying the dog, Xinhua had reported, quoting professor Wang Hu, director of the Qinghai disease control bureau.
Chinese authorities have lifted a quarantine order that was imposed on a remote town of 10,000 people to contain a deadly outbreak of pneumonic plague, according to a report Sunday.