Chile's acting Agriculture minister Cecilia Leiva said on Friday health authorities are working to minimize the risks of an outbreak of anthrax in a small village of farmers and fishermen in the extreme south of the country.
So far "human contagion" has been discarded and an inter-ministerial task force is in the village and has given antibiotics to the fifteen families plus vaccinating a hundred head of cattle and sheep to prevent further outbreaks. Leiva said that ten days have elapsed since the death of the cow with the bacterial anthrax and "none of the people which were in contact with the animal have shown any symptoms". Samples from the dead animal taken to a Health Ministry Lab in Osorno confirmed that presence of Bacillus anthracis, but Leiva pointed out that only three outbreaks have been reported in the last 25 years in the area. Francisco Bahamonde, head of Chile's Agriculture and Livestock Sanitation Office called on all farmers not to forget to vaccinate cattle and sheep, particularly at the end of the summer and beginning of autumn when the anthrax spores represent a risk. Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic lower vertebrates (cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes, and other herbivores), but it can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals or tissue from infected animals. When anthrax affects humans, it is usually due to an occupational exposure to infected animals or their products. Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal. B. anthracis spores can live in the soil for many years, and humans can become infected with anthrax by handling products from infected animals or by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products. Symptoms of disease vary depending on how the disease was contracted, but symptoms usually occur within 7 days. Anthrax is diagnosed by isolating B. anthracis from the blood, skin lesions, or respiratory secretions or by measuring specific antibodies in the blood of persons with suspected cases.