A small anthrax outbreak is said to have been caused by a horsey dinner party in rural Siberia. Unfortunately, some of the infected have left their sickbeds, escaped from the hospital, and are now fleeing.
The regional health ministry in the Tuva Region in southern Siberia sounded the alarm on Tuesday, July 18, noting that “four patients hospitalized with anthrax refused treatment at the infectious diseases hospital and left the medical facility without authorization,” TASS news agency reports.
One patient remains under medical supervision, but the whereabouts of the others is unknown.
The statement added that one of the patients had recently visited a herding campus where there were over 100 unvaccinated animals.
Earlier this month, TASS they reported that the people fell ill after killing a sick horse and then eating its internal organs. To reduce the risk of an outbreak, a total of 84 people were vaccinated and some were kept under medical observation.
“The threat of an outbreak epidemic has been ruled out. Anthrax is not transmitted from person to person,” noted Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s public health watchdog.
Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis. Infections can be very unpleasant and can be fatal if left untreated. It usually starts with flu-like symptoms that develop into severe respiratory difficulties. Direct contact with the pathogen on the skin can cause boil-like lesions that develop a black center. Fortunately, it can be treated with antibiotics and is usually not spread from person to person.
The bacteria live naturally in the soil where they can live for years or even centuries, but it can occur in both wild and domesticated animals. Humans are usually infected by contact with animals.
Siberia is a part of the world that is notorious for anthrax outbreaks. In 2016, a severe anthrax outbreak occurred in the Yamal peninsula, killing thousands of reindeer and affecting at least 40 people. It has been speculated that the outbreak was caused by infected deer carcasses that had been “thawed” by warming temperatures associated with climate change. The area’s population had recently increased and deer vaccinations had declined, creating the right conditions for an outbreak.
Just as the public health agency said, there is a risk that this latest outbreak in Siberia will turn bad because anthrax is generally not contagious. However, it is a stark reminder that the threat of these vicious bacteria is always present.