Since June 28, more than 50 animals (cattle, sheep and equines) spread over 23 distinct zones have died of anthrax in the Hautes-Alpes, according to the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur regional health agency ARS (computer translated).

Bacillus anthracis bacteria Image/CDC
Bacillus anthracis bacteria

To date, 13 municipalities have been impacted: Montgardin, La Batie-Neuve, La Rochette, Chorges, Théus, La Freissinouse, Romette, Ancelle, Saint-Léger-les-Mélèzes, Sainte-Eusebe-en-Champsaur, Rambaud, Saint- Etienne-le-Laus and Buissard.

The farms concerned were thus put under surveillance, with the following preventive measures:

  • antibiotic treatment and / or vaccination of all animals of the farms concerned;
  • the ban on the exit of these animals from the farms and pastures where they are;
  • as a precautionary measure, the withdrawal of human consumption from all products likely to be contaminated and the prohibition of the use of private sector water supplies for livestock and people .

The ARS identified 103 people potentially in contact with the disease (mainly breeders, shepherds, staff of the rendering company and people who attended an equestrian center). As a precaution, preventive antibiotic treatment has been prescribed for 54 people and to date no case has been identified in humans.

The last human cases in France date back to 2008.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracisAnthrax is most common in wild and domestic animals but can also be seen in humans exposed to tissue from infected animals, contaminated animal products or directly to B anthracis spores under certain conditions.

Depending on the route of infection, host factors, and potentially strain-specific factors, anthrax can have several different clinical presentations. In herbivores, anthrax commonly presents as an acute septicemia with a high fatality rate, often accompanied by hemorrhagic lymphadenitis.

B. anthracis spores can remain infective in soil for many years. During this time, they are a potential source of infection for grazing livestock. Grazing animals may become infected when they ingest sufficient quantities of these spores from the soil. In addition to direct transmission, biting flies may mechanically transmit B. anthracis spores from one animal to another.

People can get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products, consuming undercooked meat of infected animals and more recently, intentional release of spores.

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