Thirteen people are hospitalised in Jharkhand’s Simdega in the second suspected anthrax outbreak within a week and probably caused by infected cattle meat, officials said on Tuesday.
Anthrax, a bacterial disease that mainly affects cattle, causes peneumonia, infection of the blood and even death in humans.
Bardega village where the anthrax outbreak is reported is about 145 km west of state capital Ranchi and just 30 km from Kurumdegi where one person was killed by the disease four days ago.
Tribal-dominated Jharkhand has seen several outbreaks of Anthrax, caused by the bacteria ‘bacillus anthracis’, since 2014 leaving 10 people dead.
“The villagers said they consumed a dead cattle, suspected to have been killed by the disease, on Saturday night and developed blisters, stomach disorder and passed blood in stool,” said Simdega civil surgeon B Minz, adding that the even in Kurumdegi people had consumed a diseased cattle.
However, it was not clear whether the villagers had consumed cow or buffalo meat. Though cow slaughter is banned in BJP-ruled Jharkhand, villagers often consume the meat of dead cattle.
Health officials said samples of blood and body fluid from the affected people have been sent to the Rajendra Institutes of Medical Sciences (RIMS) for confirmation of anthrax.
An investigation report by the Jharkhand Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) said the villagers developed symptoms of suspected anthrax within 48 hours of consuming the meat.
“Villagers don’t take into consideration that a dead animal killed by a disease can lead to infections, including anthrax. It is just food for them,” said DSP Simdega chief Dr Adhyan Saran said.
In May, two persons from Bandarchuwa village in Simdega died and 11 others hospitalised in an anthrax outbreak. In October 2014, seven people of Kuruchedega village died of suspected anthrax -- the highest number of human casualty in the state.
IDSP’s Jharkhand officer Praveen Karn said villagers “consuming meat from animals killed by disease has to be checked”.
He said the disease transmits from animals to humans when the infected meat is handled by a person.
“Anthrax spores buried in the ground remain dormant for a long time and reactivate when they find a host. In this case, animals that consume grass,” he said.
The Simdega district administration deputed a team from the animal husbandry department to look into vaccination of domesticated animals against anthrax.
Dr Rana Pratap, Simdega district veterinary officer said, “The animals will be administered anthrax vaccines. It creates anti-bodies to fight the bacteria. The effect of the vaccine remains for a year and has to be re administered.”