Anthrax cases continue in Armenia

Outbreaks of naturally occurring anthrax continue to plague eastern Armenia despite assertions that the virus has been contained.

Fifty-five cases of anthrax symptoms have been reported in Armenia since the outbreaks began. Ten of those have been confirmed as infections, according to

In October, 21 people were hospitalized in the Gegharkunik region with symptoms of anthrax infection. In early November, a local resident in the nearby Aragots region was also hospitalized. It remains unclear as to whether or not the cases are related. No human to human transmission of anthrax has been confirmed.

The Armenian Health Ministry acknowledged the suspected cases, but said people living near the source of the outbreak have been asking for medical assistance too often. The ministry said the slightest skin abnormality has become a cause for concern and led to many cases of over-diagnosis, according to

The Armenian Ministry of Agriculture recently wrote an alert to the World Organization for Animal Health, notifying the organization of six confirmed anthrax cattle deaths in Gegharkunik, according to Bloomberg.

The Paris-based OIE posted the full notification on its website. Dr. Grisha Baghiyan, the first deputy to the agriculture minister, reported that Bacillus anthracis was identified in two cattle populations in the region. All six cattle that were infected died of the disease.

The event was contained within the region and livestock near to the infected animals were vaccinated and placed under quarantine. This included the vaccination of more than 2,000 cattle and 3,000 sheep. Several hundred were revaccinated.

"The event is resolved. No more reports will be submitted," the report said.

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, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.