12 persons contract 'anthrax' in Kodagu

MADIKERI Aug. 26. Twelve persons of a Dalit colony at Torenur in Somwarpet taluk of Kodagu district are reported to be suffering from suspected anthrax disease, according to the Department of Health and the District Surveillance unit here on Tuesday.

One of the 12 affected persons has been shifted to K.R. Hospital in Mysore. The others are being treated at Torenur at a special clinic.

It is said that the 12 had developed lesions on skin, which caused ulceration.

More than a dozen cattle died at Torenur recently under mysterious circumstances.

A few days ago deaths of vultures, crows, and stray dogs, which had fed on the carcass of dead cattle, came to light. One calf died today.

Vishwanath Kumar, District Health Officer, told The Hindu on Tuesday that the infected cattle had been inoculated and the situation was under control.

Anthrax cases were noticed at Shirangala in Hassan district a few days ago.

There are three types of anthrax. The first is "coetaneous", which is mild and has been reported at Torenur.

Small blisters forming ulcers appear on the skin. Pulmonary anthrax affects the respiratory system while the intestinal variety spreads through consumption of half-cooked meat of the affected animals.

The milk cooperatives at Torenur and Shirangala had been asked not to collect cow's milk for 21 days, if the cow had been inoculated for the disease.

This has affected milk production in these areas for the last few days. However, pasteurised milk was safe for consumption, Dr. Kumar said.

The Deputy Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases, Bangalore, Dr. Srinivasulu, visited the affected areas and instructed the concerned to take care to prevent the disease from spreading.

The District Surveillance Officer, Devadas, told The Hindu that blood samples of the 12 affected persons would be sent to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi, for examination. Penicillin was the best antidote for the disease, he said.

About anthrax entering Kodagu, Dr. Devadas said two months ago several pigs transported to Kodagu from Tamil Nadu died and their carcasses were thrown at Torenur.

Cattle feeding on the grass where the carcasses lay could have contracted the disease. He said a sanitary worker from the Torenur Gram Panchayat, Kushala, had removed the skin from the carcasses of the cattle, which were not buried and allegedly supplied the meat of the animals to some residents of the Dalit colony.

Dr. Devadas said the anthrax spores could survive from six months to 71 years. Blood samples should not be exposed to air.

The last anthrax case was detected in the State at Heggdadevanakote in Mysore district in July 1999, where five tribal people, who ate deer meat, died.

The dreaded disease is restricted to Torenur. The Forest Department and the Animal Husbandry Department have been told to report to the Department of Health any death of animals.

The carcasses should be buried six-feet deep only after conducting postmortem. Quick lime and soil in the proportion of 1:3 should be applied to kill the bacilli. Otherwise, they could be alive even deep inside the soil for several years, Dr. Devadas said.

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