Situation grim in gk veedhi mandal as two more anthrax cases surface- the new indian express electricity in costa rica voltage

VISAKHAPATNAM: With another two suspected cutaneous anthrax cases reported from Madem village of Damanapalli panchayat , GK Veedhi mandal in Vizag Agency, on Thursday, the situation turned serious for tribals and health officials with total number of cases mounting to 17. Though there is no cause for alarm as all the victims have lesions on their skin and cutaneous anthrax can be cured with drugs, the para-medical teams are on the field conducting health camps and motivating the villagers to strictly stop eating any meat.

A person contracts anthrax after cutting and eating the meat of a dead animal which is infected with anthrax and the tribals who are being treated in King George Hospital in the last few days were reportedly the ones who cut the animals and some of them also consumed it.

For 11 mandals in the agency, there are four sub-centres and 36 primary health centres. Each panchayat has around 10-15 villages in the interior areas. Officials of Animal Husbandry say that if an animal is not vaccinated, it contracts anthrax and dies within 24 hours and has to be buried six-foot deep pit or cremated. But as soon as the animal dies, the tribals cut it and share the meat with the residents of the village and consume it. The cow meat is also stored at homes and consumed daily. This kind of food habits are seen in the primitive tribal groups and Valmiki communities. Despite PHC doctors’s advise to take medicines, they fail to do so.

Since the situation is serious, the staff at PHCs and doctors were strictly told not to have holidays as there is immediate need for overall survey in the agency. The medical teams are in GK Veedhi for the last 3-4 days to make the tribals take medicines regularly. The medical staff coax the tribals to take medicines by sitting beside the latter. "Not just a few, there are many who store and consume meat daily. Some of them also sell cow meat in the weekly markets. The veterinarians have to verify and certify the meat before it is sold in the market," said L Kalyan Prasad, the medical officer for Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP). The 5-6 skin traders at Chintapalli have to be informed to take precautions.

There are a total of 4,99,000 animals (sheep, goat, cow, buffalo) in 11 mandals in the agency. So far 2,08,600 animals were vaccinated. Thirty teams have been deployed for vaccinating the rest of the animals by May 17. Anthrax spores are in the soil for about 60 years. So when it rains the spores come out and eat the grass which in is the fodder for animals. So the animals contract anthrax in their blood.

The animals also might die due in acute cases. Without any treatment, the animals can die in 24 hours. On the death of animals, Animal Husbandry deputy director B Ramakrishna said, "They don’t tie animals in sheds and feed regularly. Whenever the animals are sick they do not even identify whether it is taking feed and do not even consult any veterinarian." The animals are vaccinated every nine months. He says that animals which die of anthrax can easily be spotted as they will have blood oozing out. Though it is a sign for the farmers to understand that the animal died of anthrax and should be disposed of, the tribals cut and dry it and consume the meat.

The teams of NGOs and the Velugu department under the assistance of ITDA project officer are gearing up for large-scale awareness campaigns in schools, villages and market. While the lesions on skin and cutaneous anthrax can be cured with drugs, doctors say that there are 25 per cent chances of death if the person is not treated within 2-3 days. "Since olden time the tribals are habituated to eating dead cow meat and store it for five days. They have other sources of food but fail to follow what the medical officials’ advice. They have to first stop eating meat of dead animals," said Sandhya, the coordinator (Vizinagaram) of Tribal Cell, KGH.

"Not just a few homes in the agency, majority of them, especially PTG and Valmiki communities store meat and consume it daily. Some of them also sell the cow meat in the weekly market. The veterinarians have to verify and certify the meat before selling it in the market"