Anthrax, Bangladesh

Anthrax a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis (B. anthracis) infection. Anthrax is a Greek word which means coal. The name is due to charred looking skin lesions observed in this disease. In Bengali it is called Torka. Anthrax is an infectious disease of cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep, dog, cat and, less frequently, humans. The main source of microorganism is contaminated soil. Anthrax spores can survive in the environment for 3-4 decades. The livestock or herbivorous animals may easily be affected with the spores during grazing in the field. The disease may also spread through contaminated water. It is a zoonotic disease. Animal to human transmission occurred by direct contact. However, human to human transmission is not reported.

Anthrax is an old disease of mammals including human. High temperature (>104o F) and shivering, sudden death etc. are common signs of anthrax in animals. Usually the course of the disease is short. However, it may continue up to 3 days. Bloody discharges from the natural body openings, as well as edema in different parts of the body, are sometimes observed. Decomposition is more rapid than in other conditions, and the carcasses become bloated with gases. Persons involved in slaughter, skinning, and processing of meat from infected animal may get infection. Human usually get infection through contact (skin abrasion), inhalation and ingestion (eating of contaminated meat). Besides, the disease may spread through skin, bone meal and meat meal etc. The disease does not spread through milk.

In human three forms of anthrax are usually observed. These are cutaneous form,' respiratory form and gastro-intestinal form. Cutaneous form of anthrax is most common. Skin infection begins as a raised itchy bump, but within one to two days it develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer with a characteristic black area in the center. In absence of treatment, it may spread all over the body. The incubation period of anthrax is about 8-10 days. It is a curable disease.

Antibiotic is usually used to treat anthrax infected cases. Intramuscular injection of penicillin is used. However, intravascular injection of crystal penicillin is also responsive. As supportive treatment clofenac like medicine can be used to reduce fever and pain. To prevent and control anthrax vaccine is necessary. However, one should follow the instructions of an official veterinarian to prevent and control anthrax.

Livestock has significant impact on the national economy of Bangladesh. It also plays role in the income generation, food security, poverty reduction and creation of employment opportunity. Both human and livestock concentration is very high in this country. However, the productivity of local livestock population is lower compared to productivity of livestock in developed countries even in India. Many factors are responsible for this lower productivity. One of the main factors is frequent outbreak of diseases. Animals of this country suffer from different diseases due to some environmental factors. Huge economic loss is occurred due to disease and death from disease. The loss is calculated about 25-60% which is about 3.5-8.0 thousand crore. The economic loss was about Tk. 4.0 thousand crore due to outbreak of avian influenza in 2007-2008 in Bangladesh. In 2010, anthrax outbreak occurred in animals. It spread rapidly in different regions of the country. As a result, about 75% the total contribution of livestock subsector in the GDP is in risk.'

Anthrax is a dangerous disease of animals. The agent can be used as bioweapon. America and Russia used the spore of this B. anthracis as bioweapon. During the war in Iarq, this bioweapon was used through envelop and was send to America. As a result, many people were affected by anthrax. It is assumed that the terrorist may use this bacteria as bioweapon.

In the middle of 2010, anthrax outbreak was occurred at Belkuchi and Kamarkhond Upazila of Sirajganj district. By second week of September it spread to several districts of the country. Many animals became infected and of them some died. Side by side the disease spread to human. As a result, a panic situation was developed in the country. Consumption of animal meat (beef, mutton, lamb) decreased with resultant negative impact on country's economy. Besides, skin and hide production also decreased which lead to reduced earning of foreign currency. It was assumed that export of halal meat would also be decreased. Moreover, the use and/or export of shoe, bone meal is supposed to be reduced. The significant impact was observed on livestock farming with resultant reduction in income and employment opportunity. So, it is very important to take necessary to steps to prevent and control the disease. It is usually suggested to get panic rather to be aware of prevention and control of the disease.

For human welfare, it is essential to form an inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary expert body to conduct comprehensive research for investigating the source of disease, mode of transmission, and economic impact of the disease. It is also necessary to inform all of these matters to general mass for their information and well-being. Two years ago, a similar type of work was conducted at BLRI on avian influenza. A total of 17 researchers from 6 institutions worked for the study that took about 3 months to complete the work with minimum funds. The work was appreciated nationally and internationally. The result of that study has been published in the form of a book by Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute in 2009. Besides, information from that study has also been published in different journals. Similar strategy may be followed for anthrax.
[Jahangir Alam - Banglapedia]