Potential anthrax outbreak reported in Armenia

Armenian public health authorities were recently informed of several suspected anthrax cases in the eastern portion of the country.

The Armenian government conducted an epidemiological study in the Vardenis district of the Gegharkunik region. They collected samples from residents suspected of contracting the illness, but the full results will not be known for several days, according to News.am.

Meanwhile, health officials have ordered that preventative measures be taken to stop the suspicious illness from spreading. Fifteen people were ordered to be hospitalized because of fears that they may have been exposed.

Initial results from the tests conducted on the hospitalized patients confirmed at least one case of anthrax, but authorities are waiting for more data before declaring an outbreak. Non-pathogenic anthrax bacteria were found in nine of the patients and four of the results were entirely negative.

Babken Pipoyan, a spokesperson from the Armenian Agriculture Ministry's State Service on Food Safety, said that Armenia has not experienced an anthrax outbreak for three years, News.am reports.

Anthrax is considered to be a major potential weapon of bioterrorism, but it also occurs naturally. The bacteria is not spread from person to person and can exist in a dormant state in the form of spores for many years. The spores can activate when they come into contact with human skin, are ingested or inhaled.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies anthrax as Category A biological agent, placing it among those pathogens that are the most dangerous to public health.