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'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator

By The Siberian Times reporter
03 August 2016

Even Russia's Health Minister is on antibiotics after visiting victims of the deadly infection as numbers of infected rise.

Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova in Salekhard, the Yamal Peninsula. Picture: Life.ru

A blame game has begun on the outbreak of anthrax on the Yamal peninsula, with a senior veterinary watchdog official alleging a huge delay in informing the public and government officials of the lethal disease.

With 23 people now infected, and one dead, even health minister Veronika Skvortsova is on antibiotics after visiting patients in Salekhard, it was revealed. She is taking the medicine as a precaution because she had not been vaccinated.

The main theory as to the cause of the outbreak is that a zombie infection, inactive for 75 years or more in the buried corpse of a human or a reindeer, 'awoke' in the recent Arctic heat wave. But now the deputy head of Rosselkhoznadzor Nikolay Vlasov claimed the infection was first spotted five weeks before proper warnings were given.

He is demanding the total vaccination of the human and cattle populations to stop the threat of spread. 

'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator


'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator
Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova. Pictures: Governor of Yamalo-Nenets region's press service,  Life.ru


The senior official from the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance criticised the 'delay in diagnosis' for preventing the outbreak of anthrax.

'YANAO (Yamal) is not the poorest region. But the veterinary service is bad, very weak,' he said. 'Veterinarians learned about the outbreak of epizootic anthrax five weeks after it began. Herders were without reliable communications.

'One of them had to walk for four days across the tundra to inform about the accident.' 

'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator
The deputy head of Rosselkhoznadzor Nikolay Vlasov. Picture: Vesti.ru 


His stark criticism contrasts with the words of governor Dmitry Kobylkin who has praised officials for a fast reaction. 

Vlasov said: 'Now they need to burn 150 corpses a day. So far, the bodies have laid in the tundra for 20-to-30 days. The non-vaccination of the animals was the choice of the region's officials, sadly. 

'They have reproduced the threat for generations to come.  All this will be preserved in tundra for a long time.' 

He warned: 'We, the surveillance services, must consider that the threat of spreading the disease to other regions exists, even if it is not high, and take the measures to prevent it. There can be violations. Someone can, of ignorance, take something from the infected area -  skin or meat  - and bring it to another region.' 

'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator


'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator


'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator


'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator


'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator
At least six of the infected people, among them children, have contracted the virulent intestinal form of the infection which has already killed a 12 year old boy. Pictures: Russian Ministry for Emergencies


It is already reported that aircraft leaving Yamalo-Nenets are being disinfected, with passenges going through sanitary control. Export of meat from the infected territory has been banned. 

The health minister insisted: 'There is no threat of anthrax spreading beyond Yamal. The situation is under control and we hope it soon stabilizes and the outbreak subsides.'

She said Russia's bio-warfare troops 'have started to work. They have reported today that reindeer carcasses are being disposed in strict compliance with established procedures, with re-checks to prove the absence of Bacillus anthracis, the agent of anthrax. 

'Medics from the Emergencies Ministry are also helping us. They have brought 80 multi-bed tents with folding beds, bedding sets and 80 small stoves to organize a tent camp in a clean zone.'

'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator


'Five week delay' in issuing warning of anthrax outbreak, claims senior veterinary regulator
Governor Dmitry Kobylkin. Pictures: Governor of Yamalo-Nenets region's press service


At least six of the infected people, among them children, have contracted the virulent intestinal form of the infection which has already killed a 12 year old boy. 

They were contaminated after eating infected meat, say specialists. 

In all, 90 people - including 54 children - are in hospital.

23 of these have contracted anthrax.

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