Anthrax Hits Siberia After Decades Frozen in Reindeer Carcass

1,500 reindeer are dead, and 13 people have been hospitalized
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2016 6:19 PM CDT
Anthrax Hits Siberia After Decades Frozen in Reindeer Carcass
The thawed carcass of a decades-dead reindeer is believed to be responsible for a deadly anthrax outbreak in Siberia.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

After decades spent trapped inside a frozen reindeer carcass, anthrax is back to wreak havoc on Siberia, the Washington Post reports. Siberia hadn't had an anthrax outbreak since 1941. But, according to NBC News, approximately 1,500 reindeer have been killed by the bacterium since Sunday and 13 members of the nomadic Nenet community have been hospitalized. Four of those who have been hospitalized are children. Authorities believe the new outbreak started when the carcass of an infected reindeer, frozen for decades, thawed during the Yamolo-Nenets region's unusually warm summer. Temperatures have risen to highs of 95 degrees this summer—nearly 20 degrees above the average.

Authorities in the area ceased vaccinating reindeer against anthrax a decade ago because it had been more than 50 years since an outbreak. But scientists estimate the bacterium can survive being frozen in Siberia's permafrost for more than a century. A state of emergency has been declared in the region. Dozens of people are being relocated, and the Nenet community, which relies on herding reindeer, may be quarantined until September. A mass vaccination of reindeer is underway. "We have taken all measures to isolate the area," the region's governor says, per the AP. "Now the most important thing is the safety and health of our fellow countrymen." (In Finland, reindeer glow in the dark.)

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