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Climate Change Blamed for the Anthrax Outbreak in Russia

Aug 02, 2016 03:55 AM EDT
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Authorities are now blaming climate change for the recent outbreak of Anthrax in the Far North of Russia, sickening 72 nomadic herders and killing over 2,300 reindeers.

According to the report from The Guardian, the thawing of the permafrost due to the increasing temperature releases a certain strain of Anthrax from a carcass of an infected reindeer that was frozen for 75 years.

Officials are now taking extreme precautionary measures to prevent further outbreak of the killer bacteria.

"It's not the first situation when anthrax returns to Russia," said Anna Popova, director of state health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, in a report from Siberian Times. "We need to be ready for any manifestations and return of infection. The (Yamalo-Nenets) territory, which has had no anthrax in animals or people since 1941, and which has been considered free from infection since 1968, demonstrates that this infection is subtle."

Authorities have evacuated 63 nomads belonging to a dozen of families away from the site of the outbreak. Reindeers were also getting vaccinated for the virus. Yamal authorities have stopped vaccinating reindeers ten years ago because there have been no reported case of Anthrax infection for more than half a century.

NBC News reported that the temperature in the Yamal tundra above the Arctic Circle have been abnormally high for the past month, reaching 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which is way above the average of 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

The rest of Russia have also experience an 0.43 degree Celsius increase in temperature in the past ten years. The warming climate is causing the permafrost soil to thaw. These permafrost cover much of Russia, including animal burial grounds and cemeteries.

Anthrax spores are capable of surviving in frozen animal and human remains for hundred years and can be released when thawed. People infected with Anthrax have 25 to 80 percent mortality rate.

Local officials are now thinking of a way to dispose the corpse of the dead reindeers. Burning is the most usual way to dispose infected carcasses. However, burning poses a severe risk in the tundra.

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