Bangladesh issues nationwide anthrax `red alert`

Dhaka: Bangladesh today issued a nationwide `red alert` against anthrax as the deadly bacterial infection continues to infect cattle and people by spreading to more areas since it was first detected two weeks ago.

"We have issued the red alert today," Fisheries and Livestock Minister Abdul Latif Biswas told reporters. There are adequate stocks of vaccines and drugs to
treat the animals and people infected with anthrax and livestock officials and government doctors across the country have been asked to enforce a sharp vigil on the situation, he

The minister said that committees comprising livestock officers, civil surgeons and chief government doctors have been formed at district levels throughout the country to
coordinate a campaign to prevent and treat anthrax infections. Mahmudur Rahman, Director of Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told PTI
that so far 298 people have been detected with Anthrax infection until this morning but none of them were in a critical state yet.

"However, it appears as a critical public health crisis with detection of patients being the main problem," Rahman said. Health officials last month detected 38 villagers in
northwestern Sirajganj with anthrax saying they were believed to be infected with the deadly bacteria weeks after they consumed beef from sickened cows.

The disease was then reportedly spread to neighbouring Pabna, central Tangail and western Kushtia, and some other areas across the country. The outbreak is the second in country since anthrax, an acute disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, turned 35 people sick at neighbouring Pabna district, 30 km off the present site, in August last year.

The infected people in Pabna too had consumed an anthrax-infected cow slaughtered at that time. Anthrax commonly infects both wild and domesticated mammals which ingest or inhale the bacterium while grazing. Diseased animals can spread anthrax to humans, either by direct contact or through consumption of the meat. Most forms of the disease are lethal and affect both humans and other animals but there are effective vaccines against anthrax, and some forms of the disease respond well to antibiotic treatment.