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Anthrax outbreak in reindeer in Arctic Russia

The Times 3.8.16

A 12-year-old boy and more than 2,300 reindeer have died in Arctic Russia after an outbreak of anthrax, thought to have started after a 75-year-old reindeer carcass thawed.

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Authorities in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region said hundreds of people had been evacuated to the regional capital Salekhard for treatment and 90 people were treated in hospital after the outbreak, the first recorded there since 1941.

At least 20 more people were infected, the regional governor’s office said yesterday, eight of them children.

The outbreak is thought to have started after a 75-year-old reindeer carcass thawed, infecting the reindeer herds that roam the tundra alongside their owners, who were infected by eating their meat.

Unusually high temperatures, possibly linked to global warming, melted a deeper level of permafrost in Russia’s far north this year. Temperatures in the region, now under quarantine, reached 35C.

Fifty of those being treated in hospital are children. “All of them are showing good signs,” a spokesman for the governor’s office said. “Doctors are monitoring their condition around the clock.”

At least 200 soldiers have been called in to incinerate dead animals and carry out disinfection in the area, 1,200 miles north-east of Moscow, the defence ministry said. 

Russia’s chief epidemiologist, Anna Popova, said there was no risk of the infection spreading out of the region. “The infected area for people has been contained. But all measures will continue until we vaccinate all animals and are totally certain of people’s safety,” she said.

Anthrax is a bacterial infection that can spread via infected food. Symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting blood. 

Read additional coverage from The Independent