VISAKHAPATNAM: The five patients from Kodupunjuvalasa village of Araku Valley who are undergoing treatment for skin infections at the King George Hospital (KGH) have been tested positive for cutaneous anthrax. Confirming the same, the doctors at KGH said that a group of people from the village consumed the meat of a goat which was already infected with Bacillus anthracis, the causal organism of cutaneous anthrax, some three weeks ago.
A few of the group developed some skin rashes, but with the condition of five people- K Krishna (60), J Sommana (45), J Gundu (50), P Gundu (38) and G Mangalayya (33)-deteriorating, they were admitted into the KGH last Saturday with suspected anthrax symptoms like skin ulcers and pustules. The reports for the samples that were sent to the lab for testing arrived on Tuesday and the patients were tested positive.
“The cutaneous anthrax spores can thrive for more than 70 years in the soil. The animals get the spores into their stomach while grazing. Tribals contract infection if they eat the infected meat or through cuts and abrasions in their body while cutting the animal flesh,” explained B Balachandrudu, HoD of dermatology department of KGH.
However, he said that cutaneous anthrax is not fatal for it can be cured with regular vaccination.
“As the disease spreads mostly during the monsoon, it can be prevented, if the people become careful while eating meat of dead infected animals. Besides, animal husbandry department should identify the areas prone to the disease and administer vaccines to the domestic animals,” he added. Meanwhile, the district administration has deployed a team of health officials to organise medical camps in the village and its surrounding habitations. DM&HO Uma Sundari has sent a letter to the DRDE laboratory in Gwalior. “A team will be visiting the place very soon and collect samples from soil and animal. The areas vulnerable to such diseases will be identified,” she said.
Asked about the vaccination drive in the entire agency area, the DM&HO said unless the animals are affected, there is no need for vaccination. “Anthrax was reported in Hukumpeta mandal last year and the animals in that area are being administered vaccines which will continue for five years. Now similar step will be taken for Kodupunjuvalasa too,” she said. Soon after the suspected anthrax cases came to light, the medical and health authorities have been instructed to organise special camps in all areas surrounding Kodipunjuvalasa.
According to the DM&HO, the disease which spreads from animal to human can be prevented by educating the locals to bury the dead animals deep in the soil or at places far away from human habitations.Meanwhile, HRD minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao visited KGH and interacted with the patients.
How tribals contracted infection
With around 100 houses in Kodupunjuvalasa village, the residents share farm produce, food and other provisions. “The goat was not keeping well and stopped taking fodder properly for two days. So, we killed it and cooked the meat. After 20 days, some of us got skin infections and it gradually spread to hands and feet,” said G Mangalayya, a patient.
According to the tribals, it is for the first time that such a case was reported from the village. However, a similar case was reported in Padmapuram Panchayat near Kodipunjuvalasa village some two years ago. But, the residents said poor sanitation in the locality results in spreading of malaria and typhoid regularly. “The government has provided funds for the construction of toilets. But, people are maintain them properly. Viral infections are regular phenomena in the village. But, now anthrax is scaring us as we are in a habit of eating meat,” Mangalayya said.