Three villagers from Tak Province in northwestern Thailand are being treated as suspect anthrax cases after consuming tainted goat from allegedly from neighboring Myanmar, according to local media reports. This prompted a team from Mae Sot Hospital in Tak to investigate.

 Goat kids Public domain image/Rosendahl
Goat kids
Public domain image/Rosendahl

It was reported that the people had anthrax-like small blisters or bumps on their hands and arms after eating the meat.

It was reported that 30 villagers had consumed the meat in question, but most of them had already taken medicine and they could not be successfully tested for anthrax. Instead, the hospital team collected samples from animal carcasses for lab tests with the results expected soon.

The country has been free of livestock anthrax since 2000 and the last anthrax outbreak in Thailand was 17 years ago.

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.

LISTEN: Anthrax: An interview with Dr Buddy Faries

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.