Outbreaks of anthrax raise concerns in post-Soviet Union space

By Vladislav Vorishnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Armenia will halt beef imports from Georgia, following an outbreak of anthrax
Armenia will halt beef imports from Georgia, following an outbreak of anthrax

Related tags Anthrax Beef

Armenia will temporarily block any imports of beef from Georgia for personal consumption, following a recently detected outbreak of anthrax in the country, according to a report from Armenia’s veterinary services.

Last week Armenia reported on the contamination of two of the country’s citizens with anthrax. An investigation has confirmed that the source of contamination was beef purchased in the area of Ninotsminda in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia and presumably produced in the same district.

“The diagnosis is tentatively confirmed, while the condition of patients is considered moderately severe,” ​said Anahit Haytayan, official spokesperson from the Ministry of Health in Armenia. “Specialists are now implementing preventative and anti-epidemic measures to stop the spread of the disease.”

Meanwhile, a number of other countries are reported to be monitoring the situation closely and are ready to introduce restrictive measures if it gets out of control.

Veterinary authorities in Georgia reported that the source of the outbreak in the Ninozmidna region had been identified. But no further details have been disclosed at this stage.

Last week a preliminary diagnosis reported that 19 people were contaminated with anthrax in Uzbekistan, although later laboratory testing did not confirm this. Experts say anthrax remains one of the biggest problems in the livestock industry within the post-Soviet Union countries south of Russia.

“This is a huge problem, as anthrax outbreaks are detected in the region [of the Caucasus and Central Asia] almost every two to three months. During 2015 they have already been reported in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The main problem lies in anthrax burial sites. There are dozens of them across the country and nobody actually knows where they are located,”​ said Ayuz Alyzherov, a professor at Samarkand University in Uzbekistan.

“After each new outbreak we hear calls to enhance veterinary controls, but each time this initiative is forgotten within a couple of weeks,”​ said Armen Avorutinyan, head of Armenian beef production company Ashkert. “Meanwhile, countries of the Caucasus have great potential for beef exports, including to Russia, but these opportunities cannot be exploited if the anthrax issues are not resolved.”   

At the beginning of 2015, Anna Popova, head of the Russian sanitary body Rospotrebnadzor signed a bill ordering an increase in preventative measures on anthrax, as the number of outbreaks during the past five years has jumped by 43%. This situation, said Rospotrebnadzor, poses a threat to the health of consumer and livestock industries in a number of regions.

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