Anthrax outbreak hits Colombia

Sixteen animals have died and one person has skin lesions as the result of an anthrax outbreak on two farms in the department of La Guajira in northern Colombia near the Venezuelan border.

Colombia's Agriculture Ministry sent word of the outbreak to the World Organization for Animal Health on Monday. Humans can contract anthrax by coming into close contact with animals that have been infected or by eating infected animals, according to Colombia Reports.

"The community has been informed of the protocol to be applied to dispose of the carcasses, mainly the fact that, under no circumstances, the dead animals must be neither manipulated nor consumed," the OIE said, according to Colombia Reports.

The deceased animals include five goats and two pigs on one farm and three goats, two pigs and three sheep on another farm.

"Susceptible species are being vaccinated," the OIE said, according to Colombia Reports. "An intense epidemiological surveillance is being conducted in the area together with the public health authorities. Anthrax spores in the soil are very resistant and can cause disease when ingested even years after an outbreak. The bacteria produce extremely potent toxins which are responsible for the ill effects, causing a high mortality rate."

Anthrax, which can be used as a biological weapon, causes dark ulcers on the skin of people who have been infected. The last anthrax outbreak in Colombia was in April 2011. In 2010, an outbreak caused 77 people in La Guajira to develop lesions. The government declared a state of emergency as a result.