One person has skin lesions and 16 animals have died in an anthrax outbreak in northern Colombia, near the Venezuelan border.
A notification on the website for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said the outbreak has affected two farms in the department of La Guajira. Colombia’s Agriculture Ministry sent the information to the OIE on May 28.
The source of the deadly bacteria has not yet been determined, the report said. One of the affected populations “belongs to an indigenous community in the department of La Guajira,” the notice states.
“The community has been informed of the protocol to be applied to dispose of the carcasses, mainly the fact that, under no circumstances, the dead animals must be neither manipulated nor consumed,” the report said.
Humans commonly contract anthrax through close contact with infected animals or eating ones that have died from the disease.
“Susceptible species are being vaccinated. An intense epidemiological surveillance is being conducted in the area together with the public health authorities,” the notification continued.
The animals will be also be quarantined in response to the outbreak.
Three goats, three sheep and two pigs have died from the outbreak on one farm. Another five goats and two pigs have died on a separate farm.
Anthrax, also used as a biological weapon, is caused by the spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracia, the OIE website states. The disease causes dark ulcers on the skin of infected people when contracted from exposure to infected animals, and it occurs on all the continents.
“Anthrax spores in the soil are very resistant and can cause disease when ingested even years after an outbreak,” the OIE stated. “The bacteria produce extremely potent toxins which are responsible for the ill effects, causing a high mortality rate.”
The last anthrax outbreak in Colombia was in April 2011. An outbreak in 2010 caused the government to declare a state of emergency in La Guajira after 77 people developed lesions, a common symptom of the disease.