Anthrax outbreaks plague northern Vietnam province

By Minh An   June 6, 2023 | 06:00 am PT
Anthrax outbreaks plague northern Vietnam province
Spores from the Sterne strain of anthrax bacteria (Bacillus anthracis) are pictured in this handout scanning electron micrograph (SEM) obtained by Reuters May 28, 2015. Photo by Reuters/Center for Disease Control
The remote northern border province of Dien Bien is battling mysterious anthrax outbreaks as 14 cases have been recorded this month alone, including a new infection of unknown origin.

In the latest case, a two-year-old girl in Tuan Giao District came down with a fever and began vomiting as blisters and ulcers appeared on her skin.

She was first taken to an acquaintance's house in Tua Chua District for a topical, herbal medicine, but her condition did not improve. She was then taken to the Tua Chua District medical center, then Dien Bien General Hospital, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and anthrax.

The Dien Bien Center for Disease Control (CDC) said on Tuesday that the girl's health was improving and she has been placed under intensive monitoring.

Authorities have not confirmed the source of her infection, adding that her family had not consumed buffalo meat or beef recently, only pork and vegetables. The girl had also not made contact with anyone known to have had anthrax recently, authorities said.

The girl's case is the 14th recorded in Dien Bien this month.

Previously, the provincial Department of Health reported three anthrax outbreaks in the province, with 13 people having fallen ill with the disease in total. All of those sick had either butchered or consumed buffalo or cattle recently. Symptoms have included blisters and ulcers on the skin, headache, stomachache, diarrhea and breathing difficulties. All those affected have been prescribed antibiotics. There have been no deaths in any of the cases so far.

Another 132 people who have been in contact with the infected patients are being monitored by authorities.

Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It is commonly found in warm-blooded animals, including humans. The bacterium can produce spores, helping it survive in the natural environment.

One can be infected with the bacteria through open wounds, consuming infected meat, or simply by breathing in particles.

The Ministry of Health has asked Dien Bien authorities to monitor the butchering and consumption of meat in areas from which the cases originated. Local authorities have also been tasked with disinfecting all areas where cases have been detected.

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