■ Rimaliza A. Opiña
The Department of Health-Cordillera declared an anthrax outbreak in Kalinga due to the clustering of cases in one barangay in the province.
The case happened on Oct. 2 but was only reported to the DOH-Cordillera on Oct. 18.
DOH Nurse III and focal person for emerging and reemerging infectious diseases Kristine Gale Raguindin said all the five cases were involved in the consumption and preparation of carabao meat that is said to have been butchered eight hours after the animal died.
Of the five, one was laboratory-confirmed to have been infected of the bacteria bacillus anthracis but they consider the four others also positive of the infection for exhibiting all symptoms of anthrax.
Laboratory tests conducted by the Bureau of Animal Industry of the Department of Agriculture also showed that the grass and the soil where the animal grazes have the spores of the anthrax bacteria.
In the DOH’s epidemiological surveillance, 40 people partook of the carabao meat but so far, only those who directly handled the animal got infected.
The agency considers the case in Kalinga an outbreak as the five- year surveillance data of the DOH-Cordillera beginning 2018 showed that the last case in the region was in Abra in 2020.
The affected barangay in Kalinga is the only one that reported a clustering of cases.
To avoid getting infected, Raguindin advised the public not to consume “double dead” meat or the carcass of animals that died from a disease as the meat can potentially transmit the disease to humans.
Anthrax is endemic in the Philippines and generally affects livestock such as carabaos.
Raguindin said humans become infected after exposure to infected or deceased animals.
There are four forms by which the bacillus anthracis can be transmitted: cutaneous, gastrointestinal, inhalation, and injection.
Cutaneous is the most common form of transmission through the unsafe handling of dead animals.
Symptoms of anthrax infection include itching of the affected area usually the most exposed parts of the body such as the head, neck, and forearms, skin lesions with vesicular fluid, fever, and general body malaise and in some cases, gastrointestinal distress.
Raguindin said anthrax is not contagious but added caution should still be exercised because like other zoonotic diseases, this can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Those infected have been treated and have recovered but they continue to monitor the 35 others who partook of the meat.
The DOH has not yet considered lifting the outbreak classification as there remains a threat of infection.
Being endemic, the spores of the anthrax bacteria can last for many years in the environment where the animals are.
As added precautionary measure to prevent its spread, the BAI has quarantined the area where the carabao grazed and a mass vaccination of livestock will be conducted in the province and the community has also be alerted about the incident, Raguindin added.