Anthrax Outbreak in Russia Kills Boy, 12, and Hospitalizes Others

1200x6001 MOSCOW — An outbreak of anthrax, a deadly bacterial disease that is rare in developed countries, has hit a remote region of northern Russia, killing a 12-year-old boy and sending 90 other people to hospitals. The death of the boy, who has not been identified publicly, was the first anthrax fatality in the region, Yamal-Nenets, in 75 years. The disease is most often found in herd animals, which in Yamal-Nenets mainly means reindeer. The regional authorities said the outbreak had killed more than 2,300 reindeer. As of Tuesday, 20 people from the area had confirmed diagnoses of anthrax, officials said in a statement. Dmitri N. Kobylkin, the regional governor, has imposed a quarantine in the affected district, but has insisted that the situation is under control. In a statement online, the governor’s office said that “there is no epidemic in the Yamal” and that “the overwhelming majority” of the nomadic reindeer herders who make up most of the region’s sparse population were healthy and were receiving preventive treatment. Officials believe an infected reindeer carcass that had been frozen in permafrost was exposed by melting during a recent heat wave, when temperatures soared above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or 32 degrees Celsius. “The reindeer, who were near the location, were weakened by heat and herding, which helped them getting infected,” the statement from the governor’s office said. Russia’s Defense Ministry has sent 200 specialists to the area to try to rid it of infected animals, with plans to incinerate as many as 120 reindeer carcasses a day. Nikolai I. Vlasov, the deputy head of the country’s s agricultural watchdog agency, said that reindeer in northern Russian had not been vaccinated against anthrax in years. He said that many infected animal carcasses were probably frozen in the area, and that they could thaw and spread anthrax spores in the hot weather. “This is an unprecedented situation for Russia’s modern history,” Mr. Vlasov said. Source