Anthrax infections spike in southern Laos’ Champassak province

Authorities have warned the public to keep from touching dead livestock to avoid transmission.
By RFA Lao
Anthrax infections spike in southern Laos’ Champassak province A man shows the sores he developed after being infected with anthrax, in this undated photo.
Image from Lao Economic Daily video

The number of people infected with anthrax in southern Laos’ Champassak province has more than tripled over the course of a week to 54, according to authorities, who have warned the public to refrain from touching sick or dead livestock.

The Department of Communicable Disease Control, under the Lao Ministry of Health, announced on March 20 that the number of infections in Champassak soared from 14 cases a week earlier to 54 as a result of contact with dead cattle. 

No human deaths have been reported.

Anthrax is a disease caused by bacterial infection from spores commonly found in infectious animal products. Transmission can occur by breathing in the spores, eating contaminated meat, or bacterial contact through an area of broken skin. Symptoms include blisters, fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea and abdominal pain.

The proliferation of vaccines means that anthrax infections are not typically fatal. Slightly more than 2,000 people die from the disease annually worldwide.

An official from Champassak province, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak with the media, told RFA Lao that the infections are being investigated by authorities, who are also raising awareness of the disease in Soukhuma and Champassak – the two affected districts.

“Our team from the provincial health department has traveled to the two infected districts … campaigned against the disease and explained to the public not to have any contact with sick animals,” he said.

He noted that last week, cows in Vientiane and Borikhamxay provinces had died of an unknown disease, and said tissue from the animals is being tested to determine the cause of death.

While the distribution of cases in the two Champassak districts was not immediately clear, a worker at the Soukhuma District Hospital told RFA that his facility has “a few patients who are infected with anthrax.”

Residents told RFA they are working with authorities to curb the spread of the disease.

“I know that anthrax is spreading,” said the owner of a restaurant. “Our restaurant is complying with the order of the authorities. We’re serving only fish, not meat.”

Nanthasane Vannavong, the deputy head of the Health Department of Champassak Province, urged the public to seek immediate diagnosis and treatment at a hospital or medical center if they suspect they may have been infected.

Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


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