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UPDATED First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease

By The Siberian Times reporter
26 July 2016

Four children among those in intensive care, as locals undergo mass evacuation and quarantining, while reindeer herd decimated.

First anthrax outbreak since 1941. Picture: Vesti Yamal

Up to 1,200 deer have been lost in the Yamalsky district in Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region, as urgent action is underway to inoculate 'at risk' nomads including children. A total of nine have been hospitalised, including four children, with two of those in intensive care suspected of suffering from dangerous anthrax.

It is the first outbreak of deadly infection anthrax in 75 years, and a strict quarantine regime was put in place by governor Dmitry Kobylkin, including mass evacuation of herders most at risk, and their families. 

Initially it was thought a heat wave in the tundra region, which straddles the Arctic Circle, was responsible for sudden  reindeer deaths. 

Now it is feared anthrax has played a major part in the deaths. 

First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease

First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease

First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease
People evacuated from the area. Pictures: Vesti Yamal

Deep concern focuses on  nomadic herders and their families in the Tarko-Sale Faktoria camp, above the Arctic Circle and close to the Yaro To lake, some 340 kilometres north-east of regional capital Salekhard.

We are indebted to Prof Florian Stammler, Arctic Centre, Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland - who knows the area well - for clarifying initial confusion over the location of the outbreak.

'There is a doctor near the breeders - there are 63 of them - who monitors their health condition,' said a statement from the governor's office. 'As a preventive measure all the nomads from the area will be flown to another part of the tundra for preventive inoculation. 

'A helicopter has already been sent to their camp.'

Gazprom Dobycha Nadym agreed to provide the helicopter -  and children were to be placed in a a boarding school in Yar-Sale temporarily.  

Mass vaccination of 'all nomads of Yamal district' has not been ruled out. Some 1,200 reindeer have been lost so far but it is unclear how many of these to anthrax, and how many to heatstroke following unusually hot weather with temperatures of 30C or more. 

Young reindeer are being culled due to the demise of their mothers, leaving them unable to feed. 

'Based on a comprehensive analysis, experts confirmed that the mortality of the reindeer is caused not only by heatstroke [the animals are unaccustomed to such high temperatures] but also by a sickness - anthrax,' said the report. 

correct map anthrax Yamal peninsula

First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease

First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease
The herders will have to avoid this area for a few decades. Pictures: Vesti Yamal

The contamination of a disease that can remain infectious for more than a century could have been from a herd uncovering the burial place of an infected reindeer from the past. 

'There are no cattle mortuaries in the area but considering the viability of the infectious agent of anthrax - 100 years and more - and its resistance to the change of temperatures professionals assume that animals looking for food came across the site of an animal that died of anthrax and then infected each other. Therefore the locality - a reindeer path - will be fenced off.' 

Measures are now being taken for the disposal of the dead animals. Healthy animals from the affected herd will undergo additional vaccination.

Money for clearing the area will be assigned from budget reserves of the Yamalo Nenets autonomous district. 

Every dead animal will be burnt separately in the location where it died.

However, Vyacheslav Khritin, head of Salekhard Vet Centre, said; 'We will  have to dispose the calves born this year that are left without mothers. All the corpses that died over some four or five kilometres, we'll gather them and will build a large cattle cemetery.' 

A reliable cemetery will be built with special equipment that will only reach the location only in a few days. And herders will avoid the area for a few decades. 

They won't be burnt all together not to spread the disease. Samples of infected animals were sent to additional analysis to Moscow. 

First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease

First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease

First anthrax outbreak since 1941: 9 hospitalised, with two feared to have disease
Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Pictures: Vesti Yamal

A spokesman for the governor said: 'This case won't affect exports or the quality of meat.'

Most exports go to Germany, Sweden and Finland. This case is local, it is about one one centre - Yaroto lake in Yamalsky district.

'No other centres (of anthrax infection) have been discovered. 

'Control and safety measures have been restricted across the whole region. There is no single chance that infected venison will make it to slaughter complex: all of them, each and every patch is thoroughly checked in line with the highest standards. 

'We're interested in exporting high-quality venison just like it has always been. Our long-term history with foreign partners says that we are trusted and our reputation is precious. We're hoping that this situation will not impact on attitudes towards Yamal products.' 

Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Among its forms are inhalation, which leads to fever, chest pain, and shortness of breath. The intestinal form presents with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. 

Until the 20th century, it killed hundreds of thousands of people and livestock each year. 

Anthrax has been developed as a lethal weapon in the past. 

Comments (4)

you can read a bit more detailed comment here:
Prof Florian Stammler, Arctic Centre, Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
29/07/2016 19:58
Please note there is a slight confusion about the exact location of this incident. Ignore the maps in this Siberian times article. We are actually witnessing this on the YAMAL PENINSULA close to the FAKTORIA (trading post) Tarko Sale, which is close to the Yaro To lake. This is not to be confused with the other (bigger) Tarko Sale, administrative centre of the Purovski District in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The proper location and latest news about this can be found here for example:
I have myself moved together with private herders around the Yaro To lake. The location is an important passway for many reindeer nomads, used in all seasons: The nomads with the furthest longest migration routes use it in early May, just before calving time, moving up North in spring towards their summer pastures. The second "wave" of herders use this location as a summer site, where they group with several households uniting many small herds into a big one for withstanding mosquito harrassment. People stay close to the Yaro To lake for fishing there in summer. In autumn the site is again used as a passway for herders returning from their summer pastures south heading towards the slaughtering sites in the south of the Yamal Peninsula. In winter, some private herders use the site and get supplies from the trading post in Tarko Sale.
This shows that the place is very intensively used. Due to the high mobility of herders using this site, utmost care has to be taken for preventing of anthrax being spread all over the Yamal Peninsula.
Prof Florian Stammler, Arctic Centre, Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
29/07/2016 19:09
Very important to protect the remote Nomadic population.We love them ; ils ont une vie difficile et digne.
Jocelyne, FRANCE
27/07/2016 17:53
All diseases affect exports, in Britain/Ireland if a cow or two has foot & mouth then all the cattle from that & surrounding areas near to hand are burned in an incinerator & all cattle that may have gone out before the discovery are tracked by the records of farms/factory's. Then all sales of meat known to be from those farms in those areas are taken off the shelves & destroyed & supervised by Department of Agriculture officials.Then all governments that buy same have to be contacted & told about same. Exports can be halted for up to six months to a year or two or even five

Anthrax is another kettle of fish altogether & more deadlier, and needs to be thoroughly investigated as to the source, how far back, and the true number of animal/humans affected. It's a word that sends shudders down the backs of governments & those countries will want to know all the facts & what the source is for the infection & what action are being taken as soon as possible. This is "Big Stuff".
Jaker, Dundalk
27/07/2016 00:57

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