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Tundra ablaze as reindeer carcasses infected with deadly anthrax are incinerated

By The Siberian Times reporter
05 August 2016

And finally a sign of hope: the first child hospitalised because of the infection is given all-clear to go home.

Tundra ablaze as reindeer carcasses infected with deadly anthrax are incinerated. Picture: Press Service of Yamalo-Nenetsk Governor's Office

Lyudmila, 11, was 'happy' to be allowed to leave hospital in Salekhard, as regional governor Dmitry Kobylkin flew her to a new emergency nomadic camp - away from the infection zone - on his official helicopter.

The girl is no longer at risk of infection. 

At the same time, the first aerial pictures of the burning of infected reindeer carcasses showed the major military operation underway to halt the spread of an outbreak that has killed one person, a 12 year old boy, and left 115 in hospital.  

Lyudmila

Lyudmila, 11, was 'happy' to be allowed to leave hospital in Salekhard, as regional governor Dmitry Kobylkin flew her to a new emergency nomadic camp.  Picture: Press Service of Yamalo-Nenetsk Governor's Office

Of these 24, including 10 children, are confirmed as anthrax victims. A further 66 are on preventive therapy therapy at the infectious diseases department of Salekhard hospital, while 25 are on rehabilitation.

The operation to destroy 2,349 reindeer that died from anthrax is being carried out by the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Units of the Central Military District.

'Military specialists have intensified the work to deal with the consequences,' said Col. Yaroslav Roshchupkin, aide to the troop commander of the district. Army specialists expect that the consequences of anthrax can be eliminated and the Yamal tundra can be cleansed by September, reported Interfax.

Burning corpses


Military operation

The operation to destroy 2,349 reindeer that died from anthrax is being carried out by the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Units of the Central Military District. Pictures: Vesti.Yamal, Press Service of Yamalo-Nenetsk Governor's Office

'Six radiation, chemical and biological protection groups are working in the operation,' he said. 

Major General Valery Vasilyev, of the Chemical Corps of the Defence Ministry, said: 'We are building up our capacity every day. We have developed the technology of destruction of dead animals. It is carried out in two steps. 

'The first is the creation of a high-temperature combustion field that guaranteed to kill anthrax. The temperature which destroys the spores is 110 degrees Celsius, more safely 140-150 degrees Celsius. 

Child, 12, died from anthrax, as nine cases confirmed of the deadly disease

The cause of the anthrax outbreak could have been infected human remains from a local Nenets burial ground. Picture: Znak.com

'We are bringing the temperature up to 400-500 degrees Celsius. And after burning we disinfect the area with bleach. It is the second blow to the anthrax, guaranteed to destroy it.' 

Regional officials have heeded pressure and are to vaccinate all 700,000 reindeer in Yamalo-Nenets following the first outbreak here for 75 years. 

The disease spread from the awakening of frozen 'zombie bacteria' in either a reindeer carcass or human corpse due to the warm summer and thawing permafrost. However, Kazakhstan has suspended cattle imports from Russia. The countries share a long border. 

Military operation


Military operation

'We are building up our capacity every day. We have developed the technology of destruction of dead animals.' Pictures: Press Service of Yamalo-Nenetsk Governor's Office

But chief Russian veterinary officer Vladimir Shevkoplyas insisted that after vaccination programme it will be safe to eat venison from domesticated reindeer. 'We use the world most effective vaccine against anthrax. After the vaccination the animals are not in danger anymore,' he said. 

Regional officials insist that the infection is restricted to only one district of a region which is larger than the US state of Texas, and bigger than France and Switzerland combined. Despite this rigorous quarantine measures are imposed and a region-wide hunting ban has been imposed. 

Clean nomadic camp


Clean nomadic camp

A new emergency nomadic camp of 100 tents is being built away from the infection zone. Pictures: Press Service of Yamalo-Nenetsk Governor's Office

Regional governor's press secretary Natalya Khlopunova said: 'This morning, five people have been discharged from the Salekhard regional hospital. All of them are in good health, they have been treated with antibiotics and vaccinated. 

'One of the discharged persons - a girl from a family of reindeer herders - was taken by helicopter to a temporary accommodation centre in the Yar-Sale settlement of the Yamal district. She is accompanied by governor of the Yamalo-Nenets area Dmitry Kobylkin.'

Anthrax is a bacterial infection caused by the organism Bacillus anthracis. 

Reindeers and herder


Reindeers

'We use the world most effective vaccine against anthrax. After the vaccination the animals are not in danger anymore.' Pictures: Vladimir Adayev

It can be found in grass-eating wild and domestic animals, such as cows and sheep, most often in the agricultural regions of Asia, Africa, South America and parts of Europe (southern and eastern). 

Diseased animals can spread anthrax to humans, either by direct contact, for example, inoculation of infected blood to broken skin or by consumption of a diseased animal's flesh. 

Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected animal or person to another. It is spread by spores. These spores can be transported by clothing or shoes.  There are effective vaccines against anthrax, and some forms of the disease respond well to antibiotic treatment.

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