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Health Authorities on Alert as Anthrax Infects 14 in Southern Laos

Source: Radio Free Asia

More than a dozen people have been infected by anthrax in two districts in southern Champassak province and authorities have responded by placing restrictions on the movement and slaughtering of some farm animals, several officials told Radio Free Asia. 

Provincial health officials announced on March 12 that anthrax – a rare, serious infectious disease caused by bacteria – was found in the carcasses of 97 cows, buffaloes, and goats. 

Three people in Champassak tested positive for anthrax last week, but that number jumped to 14 on Tuesday, according to the provincial Health Department.

The 14 patients all have large, dark scabs and are receiving treatment, a health official told RFA. Authorities believe they contracted anthrax – or what’s known as “black blood disease” – by eating meat from infected cows or buffaloes.

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Anthrax usually affects livestock like cattle, sheep, and goats, but humans can be infected if they are exposed to contaminated animal products or animals. 

According to the World Health Organization, anthrax isn’t generally considered to be contagious between humans, although there have been some cases of person-to-person transmission.

The provincial health department has issued a notice asking local medical centers and authorities to report any new cases and urging anyone who develops black bumps on their body to see a doctor as soon as possible.

“We’re concerned. We have stopped eating meat,” a Soukhoumma district resident told RFA. “Now, we eat only pork and fish.”

Transporting and slaughtering farm animals has been temporarily banned, and people are required to properly bury their dead animals, the department said.

A slaughterhouse worker told RFA that they are complying with the order and have stopped buying animals from local farmers. 

An agricultural official in Pathoumphone district said authorities have stepped up surveillance efforts and have officially warned the public not to eat locally slaughtered meat.