Yamal Peninsula Hit By Anthrax Outbreak

Authorities are taking every cautionary measure possible after an outbreak of anthrax spread throughout the Yamal Peninsula area earlier this week.

On July 25, officials issued a quarantine of the area after some dead wildlife tested positive for the anthrax bacteria. Three days later, authorities sent hundreds of doses of the anthrax vaccine.

According to a press release posted by The Artic, Yamal medical professionals responded to the anthrax suspicions immediately. They issued their statement on the outbreak.

“Yamal medical personnel began working immediately after veterinary doctors speculated on the cause of the reindeer deaths. To be safe, all nomadic families were treated with the antibiotic. All children and pregnant women were immediately taken from the affected area to hospitals in Yar-Sale and Salekhard.”

Officials believe the outbreak began when an infected, deceased animal defrosted due to unusual temperature changes, presumably because of global warming.

Authorities estimate that about 150 people were affected total, and at least 40 people, children included, were hospitalized after exposure to what experts believe to be the anthrax bacteria. Most of the people affected are from small herding villages in the northern region of Siberia. While officials have no confirmed cases of the bacteria yet, doctors have those 40 people under close surveillance, watching for any signs that it is, in fact, an outbreak of anthrax.

Infection from the anthrax causes symptoms ranging from trouble breathing and fever to intestinal trouble, depending on the strain of the bacteria.

Anthrax killed many farm animals as well as humans well into the 20th century. Military personnel used the bacterium as a lethal weapon during WWI.

A professor from the University of Lapland, Florian Stammler, works with herders in the large reindeer hunting grounds. He mentioned the severity of the risk to surrounding citizens if the outbreak on the peninsula is indeed anthrax and it continues to spread, reported the Siberian Times.

“The location is an important pass way for many reindeer nomads, used in all seasons. The nomads with the furthest longest migration routes use it in early May, just before calving time, moving up North in spring towards their summer pastures. The second ‘wave’ of herders use this location as a summer site, where they group with several households uniting many small herds into a big one for withstanding mosquito harassment… In autumn, the site is again used as a pass way for herders returning from their summer pastures south heading towards the slaughtering sites in the south of the Yamal Peninsula… In winter, some private herders use the site and get supplies from the trading post in Tarko Sale. This shows that the place is very intensively used.”

A major concern is their venison exportation. A representative from the local governor’s office assures consumers and businesses that there is no reason to worry.

“[There will be] no impact on venison exports. [The suspected anthrax outbreak] was restricted to the site around Tarko-Sale camp. This case won’t affect [either any] exports or the quality of meat.”

Despite the professor’s words of caution, the governor’s office seeks to assuage the fears of the local citizens.

“Control and safety measures have been restricted across the whole region. There is no single chance that infected venison will make it to slaughter complex: all of them, each and every patch is thoroughly checked in line with the highest standards.”

So far, the good news is that no deaths have been reported since the potential anthrax outbreak.

[Photo by Kelly Owen/Getty Images]