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Anthrax cloud in Orissa

Bhubaneswar, June 24: An unconfirmed report says three tribals in Koraput district have died of anthrax. Fears of anthrax poisoning had caused panic in the US and the rest of the world in the weeks following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Asha Kiran Hospital, a private clinic at Lamtaput block in Koraput, confirmed that three persons had died over the past fortnight. Laxman Muduli, 29, of Patraput, 32-year-old Nanda Kirsani of Terraguda and Mula Marja, 35, of Mahadeiput died while undergoing treatment at the missionary hospital.

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium, bacillus anthracis. Symptoms like high fever, cough, sore throat and sores on the face and arms can occur within a week of infection.

The victims were admitted to the hospital earlier this month. Authorities sent specimens of their skin lesion to Christian Medical College, Vellore, which confirmed anthrax. Dr Manoj Jacob, who is reported to have disclosed this, could not be reached for comment.

The missionary hospital, which has a tie-up with the Vellore hospital, received one patient with similar symptoms yesterday. The dead tribals were reportedly infected while peeling animal hides. Due to lack of treatment, they developed septicaemia (blood poisoning) which turned fatal.

Anthrax is a disease affecting sheep and cattle, but can get transmitted to humans if infected cattle is eaten or if the hide of an infected animal is handled. As tribals live close to cattle, they are at risk.

Government reports say over 390 people have been infected by anthrax in this areas over the last 7 years. The first such cases this year were reported in April.

Unofficial sources said 20 other people have been affected by anthrax over the last 15 days.

Koraput district medical officer, M.R. Sahoo, denied these reports. “We have not received any such reports. We just have information that all patients have been cured.” He would not comment on the cause of the tribals’ deaths.

Sources here say medical teams have been sent to the area to check the spread of anthrax. An outbreak has been reported in Dhadi, K. Maliput, Charaguda, Kangrapad, Solipada, Mahadeiput, Chopadi and Andipoda villages.

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