Health officials in Koraput District of Odisha state in India are reporting three human cases of anthrax in Satasemala villagers, according to India media accounts.
It is noted that one of those sickened is currently hospitalized in critical condition in Koraput.
An investigation into the situation revealed that a large number of cattle had died in the village a few days back. Some of the villagers had consumed meat of the dead animals and were affected by the disease.
Health care workers distributed antibiotics to at least 200 villagers as a preventive measure.
The report notes that seven tribals were affected by the disease in Nandapur block and five in Lamataput block in past couple of weeks.
Anthrax is a pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Some of the more common herbivores are cattle, sheep, goats, horses, camels and deers. Anthrax is a very serious disease oflivestock because it can potentially cause the rapid loss of a large number of animals in a very shorttime. Affected animals are often found dead with no illness detected.
It infects humans primarily through occupational or incidental exposure with infected animals of their skins.
Anthrax is caused by the bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. This spore forming bacteria can survive in the environment for years because of its ability to resist heat, cold, drying, etc. This is usually the infectious stage of anthrax.
When conditions become favorable, the spores germinate into colonies of bacteria. An example would be a grazing cow ingests spores that in the cow, germinate, grow spread and eventually kill the animal.
The bacteria will form spores in the carcass and then return to the soil to infect other animals. The vegetative form is rarely implicated in transmission. Strict enforcement of quarantines and proper burning and burying of carcasses from livestock suspected to have died from anthrax is important to prevent further soil contamination with the bacterial spores.
There are no reports of person-to-person transmission of anthrax. People get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products, consuming undercooked meat of infected animals and more recently, intentional release of spores.
There are three types of human anthrax with differing degrees of seriousness: cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalation.