Thawing permafrost: Two more lethal Anthrax outbreaks in Siberia

Doug Williams
 

Northern Siberian region has reportedly produced a total of three anthrax outbreaks. All of the deadly cases originated in the soil contaminated by natural chemicals that were awakened by the hot Summer weather in the Arctic.

 

The Yamalo-Nenets region in Siberia has suffered from not one but three fairly consecutive outbreaks of the lethal anthrax since 7 July. The experts have confirmed that the major factor in spreading the anthrax across the region were bloodsucking insects especially mosquitoes and gadflies.

The scientists closely monitoring the situation have clearly warned that there is a dangerous risk of widespread infection across the whole permafrost region.

The world media was buzzing soon after the news of Russian bio and chemical-warfare experts converging in on the region and the revelation of the first lethal outbreak in the region since 1941. Since the initial investigation into the matter, it has been revealed that there was a total of two major outbreaks of anthrax across Yamal Peninsula while the third one was in the east of the Gulf of Ob.

This was particularly surprising for the scientist as previously there was only one region around Lake Yarato which was considered the epicenter for the similar outbreaks; now the area of influence has increased many folds, and the phenomenon is likely to travel, further increasing the risk of infection.

The recent outbreak was successfully traced back by the scientists to a privately-owned reindeer herd near Lake Pisyoto on July 7. Soon after the first outbreak set foot, another similar outbreak was spotted some 62 miles southeast near Novy Port, on the Gulf of Ob. The daunting revelation came when researchers detected the last outbreak 250 km east from the first outbreak in Taxovsky district near Pyakyakhinskaya on August 3. During the course of the infection one fatality was confirmed by the authorities, of a 12-year-old local boy, while a whopping 2,349 reindeer along with four dogs perished as a result of the infection, The Siberian Times reported.

The study into the infections has concluded that the phenomenon originated from thawed contaminated soil rather than emanating from the human remains or decades old poisoned reindeer carcasses as it was earlier thought. This study suggests that in the coming years it will practically become impossible to predict the outbreak or warn the locals of such infections unless a mass vaccination of animals and the local population is carried out. The researchers also added that once a region suffers from a natural anthrax outbreak, the probability of subsequent outbreaks becomes a real possibility, as it happened in the case of Yamal territory despite the fact that the last outbreak took place in 1941 with very similar results.

 
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