Anthrax outbreak kills nine cows in Germany, 50 people on antibiotics

Experts in the eastern German region of Saxony-Anhalt are investigating the cause of an anthrax outbreak that is responsible for the deaths of at least nine cows and 50 people being place on antibiotics.

Scientists fear the outbreak may have been caused by dead animals buried in land used for grazing, according

Police in protective gear pulled one of the dead cows out of the Elbe River in the neighboring state of Brandenburg. The cow had fallen into the river after becoming separated from its herd, which had been placed under quarantine.

"The current of the river is so strong, that the chances of a human getting ill from going in the water are slim," a government spokesperson said, reports.

A state veterinarian said that the chances of the herd infecting other animals were also low, because close contact is generally needed to pass on the bacteria and the cattle have been isolated.

Heinrich Neubaue, the head of the institute for bacterial infection and zoonotic diseases at the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute, said the most likely reason for the outbreak is that the herd was grazing in a field where infected animals had been buried. Anthrax spores can survive for decades underground and in harsh environments, reports.

Every year, approximately 2,000 people around the world die from naturally occurring anthrax infections, according to the World Health Organization.